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Housing Market Recovery Next Year? Don’t Be Foolish. Plan For The Worst
by Joe Murin

I am generally amused at the market soothsayers who continually predict that the housing recovery is right around the corner. I suppose that all the years I have spent in the housing “ditch” have caused me to become oblivious to the information the experts use to make their predictions. I guess I could take a “let’s wait and see” attitude, but in the meantime consider the following.

Let’s begin with housing starts, which are currently on an annualized run rate of approximately 550,000 new starts. This represents less than half of what is needed in a normal market. Existing home sales declined 2.2% in October and are currently tracking at an annual rate of 4.43 million. Then there are the foreclosures. According to RealtyTrac, 25% of home sales in the 3rd quarter were foreclosed properties which closed at an average discount of 32% vs. non-distressed properties. Currently, there are more than 3 million foreclosures in the market, with that number easily doubling over the next couple of quarters. And as a result, inventory continues to mount and the housing price index continues to decline.

Did I forget to mention that mortgage credit is very easy to get these days? NOT! Credit has tightened so much that even credit-worthy borrowers are having a difficult time acquiring loans.

And last but certainly not least is an unemployment rate that can’t seem to move any lower than 9.5%. The Federal Reserve predicts we won’t see an improvement in the unemployment situation until late 2011, and maybe not even until 2012.

So what am I missing? It seems to me that all of these indicators continue to predict a very, very sluggish housing recovery.

Unfortunately, many of those who have not been around as long as I have don’t remember the 1980’s, when those that survived had to have patience and incredible ingenuity. We’ve all become accustomed to instantaneous gratification. The past decade of prosperity has not been a good teacher of patience, self-discipline and learning through failure.

I am confident that, eventually, our housing market will be back. Our national economy is dependent on it. However, for many it may be too late. So don’t listen to those who might want you to believe that the cure is right around the corner.

Here’s my recommendation: anticipate the worst case scenario, plan for it and reap the benefits when the recovery begins.