HOUSING AND THE CONSUMER
According to some, on a year-over-year basis home prices have now increased for the fourth straight month, following more than three years of declines. Home prices troughed a year ago and have increases by 4.6% since then. In a few regions, home prices are increasing fairly quickly. Even in those areas where housing boomed the most, the rate of home price decline has slowed significantly.
However, there are some factors that would place housing at risk of another dip. Those factors include; Unemployment remaining high, Mortgage delinquencies still climbing and Mortgage rate resets on Alt-A and Option ARM loans due to take place over the next year.
Consumers are worrried because the Consumer Confidence Index fell by 3.9 points in July to 50.4%, compared with market expectations for a somewhat smaller decline to 51.0%. Two components of the Index; Present Situation and Expectations both fell by 0.7% and 6.1 points, respectively. Consumer assessments of the economy collapsed between October 2008 and February 2009 to their lowest level in 41 years that data have been collected. Between February through May 2009, confidence improved moderately but it has only been inching higher (on a trend basis) since then and the level of confidence is still subdued. Confidence is still deeply mired in recessionary territory. Some believe much of this weakness is due to; High unemployment, Soft housing prices, Rising foreclosures, Tight credit standards and High gasoline prices.
Although the economy is growing again, consumer attitudes are lagging behind broader economic developments.
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Michael Caruso, Broker ABR ABRM CRB CRS GREEN GRI
2007 President, Orange County Association of Realtors (949) 753-7900