The Real Reasons for the Bubble
Preface: In Part 1, we showed that mortgage applications are down, and it is really institutional investors driving the housing boom. Part 2 explains why.
Housing prices have boomed because:
(1) Lenders are artificially keeping vacant houses off of the market
(2) The Obama administration has thrown all sorts of artificial incentives at institutional investors to pump up prices
Artificially Suppressed Housing Inventory
Naked Capitalism reported last August:
Two trends are apparent. One is that banks are delaying foreclosures, or not foreclosing at all despite long-term delinquencies. The other is that private equity firms – flush with cash thanks to Tim Geithner’s religious devotion to trickle-down economics and the resulting cascade of corporate welfare – have been bidding up and holding foreclosed houses off the market. These two factors have artificially limited supply and, combined with cheap mortgages rates, driven up prices. While we can debate whether these strategies represent the best public policy, these policies are obviously not long-term sustainable.
Lenders argue the drop in foreclosures is caused by delays in the court system. However, Judge Jennifer D. Bailey, lead foreclosure judge in Miami-Dade County – epicenter of the foreclosure crisis – solidly rebuts that argument. “Here in Miami-Dade County’s Eleventh Circuit, there has been no delay in foreclosure case hearings for nearly two years,” Judge Bailey said in an Aug. 19, 2012 interview with the Miami Herald. “If you want to see a judge to hear your trial or summary judgment, you get a prompt court date.” This coincides with my own observations in foreclosure court, where judges rail at bank lawyers for repeatedly delaying their cases, even when borrowers are in no way contesting their foreclosures.
Holding back inventory means that the houses that are put on offer sell faster and at higher prices. That creates an incentive to delay foreclosures or not foreclose at all even when a home is delinquent.
Indeed – in the real world - 12.6 million houses are vacant … 1.5 million more home than are underwater. In other words, without artificial scarcity created by banks, there would be more available houses than there are underwater homeowners having problems paying their mortgage. There would – in a word – be a glut.
Government Is Secretly Helping Financial Companies to Snap Up Housing
There are realistic ways to help the economy. For example:
- Force the big banks to write down bad debt
But instead, the government’s entire strategy is to try to paper over all of the real problems with the economy by artificially propping up asset prices. For example, stocks are largely being driven by insiders and government policy.
Indeed, we’ve pointed out for years that all of the Obama administration’s “homeowner relief” programs are really just back-door bailouts to the big financial companies … and are not even intended to help homeowners.
Mike Whitney explained last September:
Private Equity firms are piling in to the housing market to take advantage of bargain basement prices on distressed inventory. The Obama administration is stealthily selling homes to big investors who are required to sign non-disclosure agreements to ensure that the public remains in the dark as to the magnitude of the giveaway. Aside from the steep discounts on the homes themselves, the government is also providing “synthetic financing to reduce the up-front capital required if they agree to form a joint venture with Fannie Mae and share proceeds from the rental or sale of properties.”(Businessweek)
In other words, US-taxpayers are providing extravagant financing for deep-pocket speculators who want to reduce their risk while maximizing their profits via additional leverage. The plan resembles Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s Public-Private Partnership Investment Program …. Speculators are getting lavish incentives (gov financing, low rates, and severe discounts) in secret deals to buy distressed inventory which should be available to the public at market prices. If that’s not a ripoff, then what is?
Obama’s preferred customers are getting discounts of up-to 60 percent of the home’s peak value and generous gov-backed financing to boot!
As the article above indicates, there’s no shortage of delinquent homes that will eventually be foreclosed. That means the process is being dragged out so the banks don’t have to fess-up to the losses on their fetid pile of nonperforming loans Here’s a little more background from an article in Businessweek:
“About 6 million U.S. borrowers will lose their homes in the next five years because of inability to pay their mortgages, creating demand for as many as 4 million new rental households, according to Scott Simon, head of mortgage bonds at Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California….
Single-family rentals are priced to deliver unlevered total returns in the range of 7.5 percent to 8 percent, or about 0.5 percentage point to 1 percentage point higher than institutional-quality apartments, according to a June 8 report by Ray Huang, senior associate at Green Street Advisors in Newport Beach, California. (“Colony Said to Win Foreclosed Homes Sold by Fannie Mae”, Businessweek)[Link.]
If “6 million homeowners” will lose their homes in the next five years, then why are clownshoes media dupes touting a “bottom” in prices and a “market rebound”?
It’s all hype. And look at how calculatingly fiendish Obama’s foreclosure-to-rental program really is. The big boys have figured out the nearest penny how much they can make by throwing people out of their homes. (7.5 percent to 8 percent) Talk about heartless. And, of course, this whole process is being orchestrated by President Fairydust and his Wall Street Pranksters to keep prices artificially high and preserve the illusion that the banks are solvent.