Bill McBride over at Calculated Risk has a post out this morning with 2 charts of data from LPS on the housing recovery. The first shows that homes in ‘active’ status, either in foreclosure, delinquent or otherwise ‘non-current’ has fallen below 2008 levels for the first time.
Which is the primary axis and which is the secondary is kind of a mystery and we are left to assume that both are x1,000 so that would imply the left axis is secondary (Or is it?) The most interesting factoid on the chart is in the box on the upper left; The percent of DQ homeowners active (in the foreclosure pipeline instead of being ignored) has doubled. To me this looks like a market that’s starting to clear, which is good for housing and the economy in general.
CoreLogic is out with their quarterly report and map of underwater homeowners. Their analysis is “showing approximately 200,000 more residential properties returned to a state of positive equity during the fourth quarter of 2012. This brings the total number of properties that moved from negative to positive equity in 2012 to 1.7 million and the number of mortgaged residential properties with equity to 38.1 million. The analysis also shows that 10.4 million, or 21.5 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage, were still in negative equity at the end of the fourth quarter of 2012. This figure is down from 10.6 million* properties, or 22 percent, at the end of the third quarter of 2012.
Negative equity, often referred to as “underwater” or “upside down,” means that borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Negative equity can occur because of a decline in value, an increase in mortgage debt or a combination of both.
In a piece called Positioning for a Housing Recovery PIMCO says that the risks to housing have been overstated and while prices may continue to fall there are opportunities in the mispricing of that risk. They believe that the risk of the 11 million underwater home loans all becoming delinquent and going into foreclosure is much lower than most think. They also point out that the record low interest rates have created housing demand from large institutions (Like PIMCO, and individual investors too) searching for positive returns.
One of the opportunities they list is in apartment building investment, either through equity (owning) or debt (loaning). However they pass over multifamily in favor of REOs-to-rentals and distressed housing debt. It’s ironic that they would favor buying large numbers of single family homes to rent because the logistical nightmare of the scattered homes is what drives most real estate investors to apartments and other commercial real estate. The convenience of having 10, 20, even 200 units or more at one location on a single property on top of the economies of scale available make owning multifamily a much better investment.
While they do acknowledge the challenge of REOs-to-Rentals:
However, investors must be mindful of the operational complexity and illiquidity of a single-family rental portfolio. Managing a nationally diversified portfolio of rental properties presents unique challenges of surveillance and scaling, and procedures for maintenance and leasing must be designed to help protect earnings.
… Somehow that doesn’t lead them to picking multifamily investment. Are you a real estate investor who started out in single family properties and moved on to apartment buildings? We would love to hear your story-
Mark Hanson of MHanson Advisors, researchers and strategists focused on North American and Australian real estate and finance markets, has a very good piece out questioning the recent calls of a housing bottom. His research shows that 20-30 million current homeowners (half the market) either cannot sell and net enough for a downpayment on another house or could not qualify for a new mortgage if they did have a downpayment.
He also charts that out in relation to the over all supply:
Here’s Mark’s breakout of the zombies:
1) “Effective” Negative Equity – 25 million borrowers / houses. These borrowers are dead to the housing market, as they don’t have the equity to pay a Realtor 6% to sell and put 20% down on a new house. They were once the most active participants, the repeat buyers. Now they are “zombie homeowners”.