With the rapid shift that’s happened in the housing market this year, some people are raising concerns that we’re destined for a repeat of the crash we saw in 2008. But in truth, there are many key differences between what’s happening today and the bubble in the early 2000s.
One of the reasons this isn’t like the last time is the number of foreclosures in the market is much lower now. Here’s a look at why there won’t be a wave of foreclosures flooding the market.
Not as Many Homeowners Are in Trouble This Time
After the last housing crash, over nine million households lost their homes due to a foreclosure, short sale, or because they gave it back to the bank. This was, in large part, because of more relaxed lending standards where people could take out mortgages they ultimately couldn’t afford. Those lending practices led to a wave of distressed properties which made their way into the market and caused home values to plummet.
But today, revised lending standards have led to more qualified buyers. As a result, there are fewer homeowners who are behind on their mortgages. As Marina Walsh, Vice President of Industry Analysis at the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), says:
“For the second quarter in a row, the mortgage delinquency rate fell to its lowest level since MBA’s survey began in 1979 – declining to 3.45%. Foreclosure starts and loans in the process of foreclosure also dropped in the third quarter to levels further below their historical averages.”
There Have Been Fewer Foreclosures over the Last Two Years
While you may have seen recent stories about the number of foreclosures rising today, context is important. During the pandemic, many homeowners were able to pause their mortgage payments using the forbearance program. The program gave homeowners facing difficulties extra time to get their finances in order and, in many cases, work out a plan with their lender.
With that program, many were concerned it would result in a wave of foreclosures coming to the market. That fear didn’t materialize. Data from the New York Fed shows there are still fewer foreclosures happening today than before the pandemic (see graph below):
That means, while there are more foreclosures now compared to last year (when foreclosures were paused), the number is still well below what the housing market has seen in a more typical year, like 2017-2019.
And most importantly, the number we’re seeing now is still far below the number we saw during the market crash (shown in the red bars in the graph). The big takeaway? Don’t let a headline in the news mislead you. While foreclosures are up year-over-year, historical context is essential to understanding the full picture.
Most Homeowners Have More Than Enough Equity To Sell Their Homes
Many homeowners today have enough equity to sell their homes instead of facing foreclosure. Due to rapidly rising home prices over the last two years, the average homeowner has gained record amounts of equity in their home. And if they’ve stayed in their homes even longer, they may have even more equity than they realize. As Ksenia Potapov, Economist at First American, says:
“Homeowners have very high levels of tappable home equity today, providing a cushion to withstand potential price declines, but also preventing housing distress from turning into a foreclosure. . . the result will likely be more of a foreclosure ‘trickle’ than a ‘tsunami.’”
A recent report from ATTOM Dataexplains it by going even deeper into the numbers:
“Only about 214,800 homeowners were facing possible foreclosure in the second quarter of 2022, or just four-tenths of one percent of the 58.2 million outstanding mortgages in the U.S. Of those facing foreclosure, about 195,400, or 91 percent, had at least some equity built up in their homes.”
If you see headlines about the increasing number of foreclosures today, remember context is important. While it’s true the number of foreclosures is higher now than it was last year, foreclosures are still well below pre-pandemic years.
With all the headlines and buzz in the media, some consumers believe the market is in a housing bubble. As the housing market shifts, you may be wondering what’ll happen next. It’s only natural for concerns to creep in that it could be a repeat of what took place in 2008. The good news is, there’s concrete data to show why this is nothing like the last time.
There’s a Shortage of Homes on the Market Today, Not a Surplus
The supply of inventory needed to sustain a normal real estate market is approximately six months. Anything more than that is an overabundance and will causes prices to depreciate. Anything less than that is a shortage and will lead to continued price appreciation.
For historical context, there were too many homes for sale during the housing crisis (many of which were short sales and foreclosures), and that caused prices to tumble. Today, supply is growing, but there’s still a shortage of inventory available.
The graph below uses data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to show how this time compares to the crash. Today, unsold inventory sits at just a 3.0-months’ supply at the current sales pace.
One of the reasons inventory is still low is because of sustained underbuilding. When you couple that with ongoing buyer demand as millennials age into their peak homebuying years, it continues to put upward pressure on home prices. That limited supply compared to buyer demand is why experts forecast home prices won’t fall this time.
Mortgage Standards Were Much More Relaxed During the Crash
During the lead-up to the housing crisis, it was much easier to get a home loan than it is today. The graph below showcases data on the Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The higher the number, the easier it is to get a mortgage.
Running up to 2006, banks were creating artificial demand by lowering lending standards and making it easy for just about anyone to qualify for a home loan or refinance their current home. Back then, lending institutions took on much greater risk in both the person and the mortgage products offered. That led to mass defaults, foreclosures, and falling prices.
Today, things are different, and purchasers face much higher standards from mortgage companies. Mark Fleming, Chief Economist at First American, says:
“Credit standards tightened in recent months due to increasing economic uncertainty and monetary policy tightening.”
Stricter standards, like there are today, help prevent a risk of a rash of foreclosures like there was last time.
The Foreclosure Volume Is Nothing Like It Was During the Crash
The most obvious difference is the number of homeowners that were facing foreclosure after the housing bubble burst. Foreclosure activity has been on the way down since the crash because buyers today are more qualified and less likely to default on their loans. The graph below uses data from ATTOM Data Solutions to help tell the story:
In addition, homeowners today are equity rich, not tapped out. In the run-up to the housing bubble, some homeowners were using their homes as personal ATMs. Many immediately withdrew their equity once it built up. When home values began to fall, some homeowners found themselves in a negative equity situation where the amount they owed on their mortgage was greater than the value of their home. Some of those households decided to walk away from their homes, and that led to a wave of distressed property listings (foreclosures and short sales), which sold at considerable discounts that lowered the value of other homes in the area.
Today, prices have risen nicely over the last few years, and that’s given homeowners an equity boost. According to Black Knight:
“In total, mortgage holders gained $2.8 trillion in tappable equity over the past 12 months – a 34% increase that equates to more than $207,000 in equity available per borrower. . . .”
With the average home equity now standing at $207,000, homeowners are in a completely different position this time.
If you’re worried we’re making the same mistakes that led to the housing crash, the graphs above should help alleviate your concerns. Concrete data and expert insights clearly show why this is nothing like the last time.
You may be reading headlines and hearing talk about a potential housing bubble or a crash, but it’s important to understand that the data and expert opinions tell a different story. A recent survey from Pulsenomics asked over one hundred housing market experts and real estate economists if they believe the housing market is in a bubble. The results indicate most experts don’t think that’s the case (see graph below):
As the graph shows, a strong majority (60%) said the real estate market is not currently in a bubble. In the same survey, experts give the following reasons why this isn’t like 2008:
The recent growth in home prices is because of demographics and low inventory
If you’re concerned a crash may be coming, here’s a deep dive into those two key factors that should help ease your concerns.
1. Low Housing Inventory Is Causing Home Prices To Rise
The supply of homes available for sale needed to sustain a normal real estate market is approximately six months. Anything more than that is an overabundance and will causes prices to depreciate. Anything less than that is a shortage and will lead to continued price appreciation.
As the graph below shows, there were too many homes for sale from 2007 to 2010 (many of which were short sales and foreclosures), and that caused prices to tumble. Today, there’s still a shortage of inventory, which is causing ongoing home price appreciation (see graph below):
Inventory is nothing like the last time. Prices are rising because there’s a healthy demand for homeownership at the same time there’s a limited supply of homes for sale. Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, explains:
“The fundamentals driving house price growth in the U.S. remain intact. . . . The demand for homes continues to exceed the supply of homes for sale, which is keeping house price growth high.”
2. Mortgage Lending Standards Today Are Nothing Like the Last Time
During the housing bubble, it was much easier to get a mortgage than it is today. Here’s a graph showing the mortgage volume issued to purchasers with a credit score less than 620 during the housing boom, and the subsequent volume in the years after:
This graph helps show one element of why mortgage standards are nothing like they were the last time. Purchasers who acquired a mortgage over the last decade are much more qualified than they were in the years leading up to the crash. Realtor.com notes:
“. . . Lenders are giving mortgages only to the most qualified borrowers. These buyers are less likely to wind up in foreclosure.”
A majority of experts agree we’re not in a housing bubble. That’s because home price growth is backed by strong housing market fundamentals and lending standards are much tighter today. If you have questions, let’s connect to discuss why today’s housing market is nothing like 2008.