Our good friend John Rubino over at DollarCollapse.com just released an analysis titled US Housing Bubble Enters Stage Two: Suddenly Motivated Sellers.
He reminds us that housing bubbles follow a predictable progression:
- Stage One: Mania -- Prices rise at an accelerating rate as factors like excess central bank liquidity/loose credit/hot foreign money drive a virtuous bidding cycle well above sustainably afforable levels.
- Stage Two: Peak -- Increasingly jittery owners attempt to sell out before the party ends. Supply jumps as prices stagnate.
- Stage Three: Bust -- As inventory builds, sellers start having to lower prices. This begins a vicious cycle: buyers go on strike not wanting to catch a falling knife, causing sellers to drop prices further.
Rubino cites recent statistics that may indicate the US national housing market is finally entering Stage Two after a rip-roaring decade of recovery since the bursting of the 2007 housing bubble:
- the supply of homes for sale during the "all important" spring market rose at 3x last year's rate
- 30 of America's 100 largest cities now have more inventory than they did a year ago, and
- mortage applications for new homes dropped 9% YoY
Taken together, these suggest that residential housing supply is increasing as sales slow, exactly what you'd expect to see in the transition from Stage One to Stage Two.
If that's indeed what's happening, Rubino warns the following comes next:
Stage Two’s deluge of supply sets the table for US housing bubble Stage Three by soaking up the remaining demand and changing the tenor of the market. Deals get done at the asking price instead of way above, then at a little below, then a lot below. Instead of being snapped up the day they’re listed, houses begin to languish on the market for weeks, then months. Would-be sellers, who have already mentally cashed their monster peak-bubble-price checks, start to panic. They cut their asking prices preemptively, trying to get ahead of the decline, which causes “comps” to plunge, forcing subsequent sellers to cut even further.
Sales volumes contract, mortgage bankers and realtors get laid off. Then the last year’s (in retrospect) really crappy mortgages start defaulting, the mortgage-backed bonds that contain their paper plunge in price, et voila, we’re back in 2008.
Rubino's article is timely, as we've lately been seeing a proliferation of signs that the global boom in housing is suddenly cooling. I've also recently encountered similar evidence that the housing market in my own pocket of northern California is weakening, and I'm curious to learn if other PeakProsperity.com are seeing the same in their hometowns.
The Global Housing Bubble
Housing, as they accurately say, is local. Conditions differ from region to region, making generalizations of the overall market difficult.
That said, the tsunami of $trillions printed by the world's central banking cartel since 2008 clearly found its way into the housing market.
The world real estate market is HUGE, over $200 trillion. That dwarfs the global debt and equity markets. So it's no surprise the central authorities did all they could to reverse the losses the GFC created for property owners.
As a result, many of the most popular locations to live are now clearly in bubble territory when it comes to home prices:
The chart above displays the most bubblicious major cities around the world in red. But it's important to note that the merely 'overvalued' markets denoted in yellow, and even some of the green 'fair-valued' ones, are still wildly-unaffordable for the average resident.
For example, in "yellow" San Francisco, where the median home now costs $1.6 million, prices are well-above the excesses seen during the previous housing bubble:
And in 'fair-valued' New York City, the median household must spend 65% of its annual income on housing alone.
Is it any wonder that 70% of millennials who don't yet own a home fear they'll never be able to afford one?
Signs Galore Of Topping Markets
At the end of a speculative bubble, it's the assets that are most overvalued that correct first and correct hardest.
So we would expect that as the highest-priced real estate markets fare from here, the general real estate market will follow.
When we take a closer look at what's currently going on with the red-hot real estate markets noted in the chart above, we indeed see evidence supportive of Rubino's claim that the decade-long Stage One mania may now be ending.
Here's a spate of recent headlines about these cities:
- Toronto: Prices clearly peaked in early 2017. Prices are now down 3% vs last year.
- Syndey: Compared to last year, prices are now down 5% and supply has ballooned 22%.
- Stockholm & Vancouver: Over a recent 6-month period, prices in the luxury property market fell 9% and 7.6%, respectively.
- New York City: In Q1 2018, prices were down 8% YoY and sales were down 25%. NYC's luxury properties fared even worse.
- San Francisco: After hitting a record price high in January, the city has seen a rare spring decline in prices, while rents across the SF Bay Area are starting to "cool off"
Sure looks like Rubino's predicted Stage Two symptoms of rising supply and stagnating prices.
Local Signs, Too
As mentioned, I live in northern California, quite close to Santa Rosa.
Things here aren't as nuts as they are in San Franscico; but it's still a moderately-affluent region with lots of second homes. It's one of the semi-frothy areas I'd expect to see cooling off in first should there be a downwards turn in macroeconomic conditions.
Located less than an hour north of San Francisco, residential housing prices here have roughly increased 2x over the past six years as the Bay Area has boomed. Supply has been in chronic shortage, exacerbated by the loss of thousands of structures burned during last October's destructive Tubbs fire.
But recently, for the first time in many years, realtors here are beginning to talk of a softening they're seeing in the local housing market.
Median sale prices dropped from May to June, which is counter to previous years. And several towns are seeing year-over-year declines in median price -- something unheard of over the past 7 years.
Meanwhile, the days-on-market ratio for properties is beginning to creep up.
Of the greatest concern to the realtors in my area: bidding wars are no longer happening. Houses are selling either at or below asking prices now. That's a *big* development in a market where houses have routinely sold for $50-100K+ above the listing price.
In a similar vein, I'm hearing evidence of the softening rents down in San Franscico and the East Bay (Oakland/Berkeley). Wolf Richter has done a good job chronicalling the substantial volume of newly-constructed units that have recently hit the market threatening to depress rents, and I've heard from a multi-family unit owner down there how landlords in the area are now finding their rents ~$500 too high for the market to bear.
This is all early and anecdotal data. It's too little at this point to claim definitively that my local housing market has entered Stage Two.
But I'm curious to hear from other PeakProsperity.com readers. What are you observing in your local markets? Are you seeing similar signs of concern?
Please share any insights you have in the Comments section below. Collectively, we may be able to add clarity, in one direction or another, to Rubino's hypothesis.
Prepping For Stage Two
Whatever the timing, Stage Two is an inevitability for today's ridiculously-overpriced real estate markets. It's not a matter of if it (as well as Stage Three) arrives, but when.
Given the data above, I think Rubino is correct in his assessment. Or at least, correct enough that prudent action is warranted today.
This makes even greater sense when considered along with the current trends of rising interest rates and quantitative tightening. Remember, home prices and interest rates have a mathematically inverse relationship: as rates go up, home prices must go down (all else being equal). And as central banks start withdrawing in earnest the excess liquidity that inflated property values to their current nose-bleed heights, expect further downward pressure on prices.
To drive the urgeny home even harder, we haven't even yet talked about the damage an economic recession and/or a painful correction in the financial markets would wreak on the real estate market. With the current expansion cycle the second-longest on record and our all-time-high markets looking increasingly vulnerable, it seems very unlikely we'll avoid at least one of those crises in the near to mid-future.
Here are worthwhile steps we recommend at this point:
- Consider selling: If you're a homeowner and are not committed to remaining in your property for the next decade+, do some scenario planning. If prices fell 20%, how much of a financial and emotional impact would that have on you? If you have substantial equity gains in your home, Stage Two is the time to protect them. If you have little equity right now, make sure you're fully aware of the repercussions you'll face should you find yourself underwater on your properity. What will your options be should you lose your job in the next recession? Whether to hold, or sell now and rent, is a weighty decision; and the rationale differs for each household -- so we strongly recommend making it with the guidance of your professional financial advisor.
- Raise cash: The vicious cycle that begins as Stage Two transitions into Stage Three is deflationary. Lower prices beget lower prices. During this period, cash is king. By sitting on it, your purchasing power increases the farther home prices drop. And when the dust settles, you'll be positioned to take advantage of the resulting values in the real estate market. We've written at length about the wisdom of this strategy given current market conditions, as well as how, while waiting for lower prices, you can get 30x the return on your cash savings than your bank is willing to pay you, with lower risk. Our recent report on the topic is a must-read.
- Educate yourself: Yes, real estate is overpriced in a number of markets. But it has been and will remain one of the best ways available to the non-elites to amass income and tangible wealth. And as mentioned, when the next Stage 3 brings prices down, there will be value to be had -- potentially extreme value. If you aren't already an experienced real estate investor, now is the time to educate yourself; so that you'll be positioned to take informed action when the time to buy arises. Our recent podcast interview on Real Estate Investing 101 is a good place to start.
In Part 2: The Case For Starting To Build A (Small) Short Position, we conduct a similar analysis into the overvaluation and growing vulnerability of the financial markets (which are highly likely to correct much faster, sooner and more violently than the housing market), including the details on a recent short position we've started building.
The tranquil "free ride" the financial and housing markets have had for nearly a decade are ending. The string of easy gains with little effort are over now that the central bank money spigots are turning off at the same time the "greater fools" pocketbooks are tapping out.
For a brief time, prices will waiver, as investors remain in denial and refuse to sell at lower prices. But soon that denial will turn to panic, and prices will plummet.
Make sure you're positioned prudently before then.
It's a bad day when you've stepped in dog poop.
But it's an even worse day when you're stepping in human poop — especially when underneath the poop is a dirty needle. That's the glory that is San Francisco today.
The city doesn't know what to do. There's more human feces in the street than ever before. This is starting to look like human evolution in reverse. And I want to be a helper in this situation.
And so, as a helper, I've got an idea for San Francisco. And I'm going to share it with you — free — at absolutely no cost to you. This is a public service.
We made a little sign — "No Human Pooping" — because I think that's clear enough, even for those who may be high on heroin, to understand.
Feel free to download and print as many copies as you'd like, and post them on your property. Or click the buttons below to share on social media.
Something has got to be done about this 💩.
Finally, a beautiful Sunday in your picturesque bayside city. You paid good money to move here. Not cheap. The $150,000 range leaves you just about middle class. In Ohio, that'd buy you a small town. But this is better than Ohio, you tell yourself. Sure, the city isn't as scenic as the postcards, but here you are, at the YMCA fields. You're coaching your kid's soccer team. And today is the co-ed Under-8 soccer final. Really, it's their World Cup. You bought the good oranges and Capri-Sun—the special edition kind with cold-sensitive images on the front. You worked hard for this moment.
Your job is demanding. Sometimes, you're there 60, 70 hours a week. But somebody needs to coach this soccer team so here you are. And, what. What is that. Your son, he's dribbling past the kid shoving dandelions into the ant hill, and, is he going to score a goal? Yes. Yes, he is, but all of a sudden, right as your son's leg angled back to kick the ball, you hear an animalistic scream behind you. You turn around, and see a man shrieking as he squats over the sidewalk. What is he doing, you ask yourself quickly. Oh, God. You know what he's doing.
Following the death of Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco Mayor London Breed inherited quite a mess. San Francisco is in shambles. Despite topping nearly every list of the nation's highest cost-of-living prices, San Francisco has been plagued by homelessness, often with unbelievable negative consequences.
I'd like to add that, the segment begins with footage of Mayor Breed walking around San Francisco, and as she passes a group of homeless people, at least one person is openly injecting themselves with a needle.
I shouldn't even have to say this, but helping disadvantaged people is a good thing. The Bible is very clear on the subject.
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." - Proverbs 31:8-9
San Francisco's approach to dealing with the poor is in fact detrimental to the poor.
"Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God." - Proverbs 14:31
"Looking at his disciples, [Jesus] said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh." - Luke 6:20-21
San Francisco's approach to dealing with the poor is in fact detrimental to the poor. Walk around the city and you'll see a lot of thousand-dollar tents that function as homes, gifts from good-natured but ultimately misguided people, who function more as enablers than rescuers. The city has set up injection sites, where homeless heroin addicts are provided with clean syringes and allowed to shoot up without punishment. May God bless them. And may we help them in a better way.
Revolutions are started by youth. And the left is desperate for young blood, or, worse, for fresh blood. They're turning on their own.
As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is more often considered too radical. In a show of force, California Democrats have chosen Feinstein's opponent, Kevin de León, over her.
Lynne Standard-Nightengale, a member of the Amador County Democratic Central Committee, said she wanted to "send a message."
I just think we need a younger, progressive person there. The Democratic Party in California has moved to the left, and he personifies those values.
Feinstein and de Leon will face each other again in November because California has an open primary system in which the top two finishers face each other, regardless of party.
The left is going hard left. When Dianne Feinstein is not left enough for you—where are the press reports of the extremists taking over? The trend is spreading. A growing number of Trump's base are former Democrats, who voted for Obama.
When Dianne Feinstein is not left enough for you—where are the press reports of the extremists taking over?
So, in response, Democrats are prowling after a new base, a new young base, who's never voted before.
Thankfully, many have predicted that the next generation of voters will be the most conservative generation since pre-WW2. I guess they've watched as their older siblings (or parents) have returned from college with pink hair, atheism, exorbitant debt, and infinite genders, only to decide that personal responsibility, a moral compass, and belief in God are preferable.