Ritholtz: “Many people should buy a home”

Posted in Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 66 Comments

From Ritholtz over at Bloomberg View:

Still a Lot of Negativity on Housing

There has been a steady drumbeat of negativity about housing ever since the residential real-estate market crashed. While there are some signs of recovery, psychological damage persists.

It has been a few years since we last looked at this issue, so we’re overdue for a revisit.

Everyone has to live somewhere, and where and in what kind of housing you choose is crucial to your quality of life, your kids’ education and your ability to save for retirement. And because so many resources are devoted to sheltering the 320 million-plus Americans, the industry makes up a significant part of the economy.

Before we go further, I am not advocating an expansion of home ownership as a government policy. But I will say this: given the state of the economy, housing prices and historically low interest rates, many people should buy a home.

However, at some point in life, you probably no longer want to have a landlord telling you what color your walls can be or become tired of having strangers share a wall with you. I am not a zealous believer that everyone should go out and buy a home. However, for many people, buying makes sense — especially with mortgage rates as low as they are (the current rate of about 3.45 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is just 0.10 percent higher than the record low).

There are lots of other reasons to buy, based on whether someone plans to live in the same area for five years or more, wants or needs a tax deduction, is concerned about the quality of local schools or simply wants the greater social stability that ownership tends to confer.

Obviously, not everyone or every time is suitable for buying.

However, home ownership still seems to be out of favor. I have blamed the recency effect for this in the past, but as home ownership rates continue falling, it make me wonder if what was once the American Dream has given way to a cultural shift in attitudes toward housing.

Whether that is on the verge of changing anytime soon will likely be determined by how soon the millennials move out of their parents’ basements, form households and start having kids. If that happens, that should bode well for the housing market.

New Home Sales at 9 Year High

Posted in Economics, Employment, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 70 Comments

From the WSJ:

U.S. New Home Sales Rise to Highest Level Since 2007

Sales of newly built homes rose in July to the highest level in nearly a decade, a sign of solid momentum in the U.S. housing market.

Purchases of new single-family homes rose 12.4% in July from a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 654,000, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That was the highest level since October 2007.

“New home sales soared again,” said Ralph McLaughlin, economist at real estate website Trulia. “This is a continued sign that demand for new homes remains solid in a low interest rate, low unemployment environment.”

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected home sales in July to slow to a pace of 580,000. Sales in June were revised down to a pace of 582,000 from an initially estimated 592,000.

Through the first seven months of the year, new home sales also rose 12.4%, compared with the same period in 2015.

The housing market has been a bright spot in the economy this year. Historically low mortgage interest rates, improving income growth and steady job creation have supported buying of both new and existing homes.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 3.48% at the end of July, down a half-percentage point from a year earlier, according to Freddie Mac.

As go jobs, so goes housing?

Posted in Economics, Employment, National Real Estate | 82 Comments

From DS News:

Are Low Foreclosure Rates Due to the Job Market?

With foreclosure starts being at their lowest level since 2000, Fannie Mae reports that the major drop in foreclosures can be tied to a number of economic factors, but the major reason is the jobs market.

Fannie Mae economist, Orawin Velz says one of the most common reasons people fall behind on mortgage payments is unemployment. During the last recession, there was an increase in the unemployment rate, which contributed to rising foreclosure rates, she says.

“If you lose your job, it doesn’t take much to stop paying your mortgage,” she says.
Recent data from the Labor Department shows the national unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in July, compared to its peak during the recession of 10 percent in October 2009.

“Now, we’re in the opposite stage,” she says. “The labor market has been healing, and the unemployment rate has been declining.”

Fannie Mae shares that while nationally, the foreclosure spectrum is improving, there are still some states that are seeing an increase in foreclosure rates in the past six months, such as Alaska, Wyoming, and North Dakota.

The report notes that despite the states, nationally, the percentage of loans in any part of the foreclosure process at the end of the first quarter was 1.74 percent. This data is a reported 48 basis points lower from a year ago as well as the lowest since the third quarter of 2007.

Fannie Mae reports that while first-time foreclosures are the lowest since 2000, Ben Graboske, data and analytics executive vice president at Black Knight says over half of all foreclosure starts are coming from mortgages that have already been in active foreclosure at least once before, and nearly 60 percent of new serious delinquencies are from pre-2008 vintage loans.

“What we’re seeing with regard to new foreclosure starts — and the bulk of all new troubled loans, in fact — is that they’re largely still a remnant of the crisis,” Graboske says.

Newark Rising?

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate | 79 Comments

From the NYT:

In Newark, a New Chapter Unfolding

In Newark’s Central Ward, not far from the site of the 1967 riots, a market-rate rental building opened earlier this year with 152 apartments and its name, 24 Jones, emblazoned in cheerful orange lettering on the blocky, colorful facade. Promotional materials invite prospective tenants to “come to a place where everything is possible.”

What, exactly, is possible in Newark? That is the question driving this next chapter of the city’s history. With about $2 billion in commercial and residential development underway, 1,500 units of housing are under construction and another 4,000 are planned, according to the city’s department of economic and housing development. Corporate dollars have poured into the city in recent years. Since 2008, Goldman Sachs has invested $500 million in the city, and Prudential Financial, which is based in Newark, has invested $368 million.

Vacant lots are being redeveloped, like the 11-acre parcel that now houses 24 Jones, which is the residential piece of a $94 million project called Springfield Avenue Marketplace that also includes a ShopRite and other stores. Forsaken buildings are being renovated, such as the 1901 Hahne & Company department store, which had been a grand shopping destination until it shut in the 1980s, languishing downtown ever since, a hulking testament to how far the city had fallen. By next year, a $174 million restoration will transform the structure into 160 apartments, a cultural center for Rutgers University and a Whole Foods Market.

“This is the largest city in the state and for too long it’s been hamstrung by people’s discomfort with its reputation,” said Jonathan M. Cortell, the vice president of development for L & M Development Partners, which owns the Hahne’s building with other partners. “And now, maybe it’s premature to start calling it a rising star, but there’s positive action happening here.”

But Newark cannot simply build its problems away. Nearly a third of the city’s residents live in poverty, according to census data, while crime is high and many of its schools are failing. One of the city’s biggest assets — available land — is also a liability, as there is no shortage of vacant lots and abandoned parcels across the city. The city also faces redevelopment challenges that are different from those in neighboring cities like Harrison, Jersey City and Hoboken, which have tied their fortunes to Manhattan by enticing New York commuters with promises of cheaper housing and a quick ride to the city.

“Newark’s not trying to be the next Brooklyn, or the next Jersey City,” said Baye Adofo-Wilson, Newark’s Deputy Mayor for Economic and Housing Development, adding, “We have our own richness and our own culture here that isn’t just an expansion of Wall Street, but really an expansion of Newark and an expansion of New Jersey.”

Don’t count the middle class out yet

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, Housing Recovery, NYC, New Jersey Real Estate | 41 Comments

From the NYT:

Middle-Income Jobs Finally Show Signs of a Rebound

The American economy is finally creating more middle-income jobs, according to a new analysis released Thursday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in a turnabout from the feast-and-famine pattern earlier in the recovery, when hiring was strongest at the bottom and top of the wage scale.

The findings suggest that it may soon be time to retire a familiar criticism of the long but lackluster economic rebound that has been underway since the end of the Great Recession in 2009: the hollowing out of the American middle class.

Between 2013 and 2015, employers added nearly 2.3 million workers earning from $30,000 to $60,000 a year, primarily in fields like education, construction, transportation and social services. That was roughly 50 percent more than in either the high-wage or low-wage categories during the same period.

By contrast, the Fed researchers found, of the nearly 7.6 million jobs created from 2010 to 2013, only about a fifth fell into the middle-tier category, with the largest number instead coming from lower-paid sectors like food preparation and health care support.

“The tide has begun to turn,” said William C. Dudley, president of the New York Fed. “For the first time in quite a while, we are seeing gains in middle-wage jobs actually outnumber gains in higher- and lower-wage jobs nationwide.”

The nascent national improvement identified by the Fed researchers in New York also held true in the metropolitan region in recent years, with New York City and surrounding suburbs adding 179,000 middle-wage jobs from 2013 to 2015, compared with just 18,000 from 2010 to 2013.

Northeast not what she used to be

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, Housing Recovery | 106 Comments

From the Atlantic:

An Unsteady Future for New England’s Suburbs

The house is a perfect Colonial, white with green shutters, with five bedrooms, a pool, and a spacious lawn. A decade ago, it would have flown off the market. These days, Candace Blackwood isn’t sure she can sell it anytime soon.

“We have a glut of inventory,” Blackwood, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway, told me, guiding her Mercedes through the leafy roads of this Connecticut suburb. “The number of days homes stay on the market has increased, and people are getting so desperate they’re renting out their homes.”

This has little to do with the housing market broadly speaking: In cities like New York, San Francisco, and Boston, prices are rising and homes are sold within days of listing. Rather, it’s a sign that suburban neighborhoods straight out of Mad Men are no longer as in-demand as they once were. Around Boston, for example, 51 towns and suburbs started the year with price declines while the city’s prices skyrocketed. Indeed, as Blackwood drives me through this picturesque New England town just an hour from New York, we pass dozens of for-sale and for-rent signs outside home set back from the road. These are homes that, one day, might have been on any family’s dream list, back when suburbs were where everyone wanted to live and there were dozens of companies to work for nearby. Median home values in Fairfield County, where New Canaan is located, are down 21 percent from their peak in 2003, according to Zillow; for the state as a whole median home values are down 18 percent from their 2004 peak. By contrast, home values nationwide are down just 5 percent from their 2005 peak. In urban areas, they are up—often substantially; in Boston, Charlotte, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle, prices this year have set record highs.

Cities are in vogue again, and that’s starting to be a problem for places that are made up mostly of suburbs. Companies like General Electric that were once headquartered here in the suburbs are decamping for city centers, where they say they can more easily find the talent they need. In 2010, Aetna abandoned a giant campus in Middletown, Connecticut; Pfizer recently tore down 750,000 square feet of unused laboratory space in nearby Groton. At the same time, the baby boomers who flooded the suburbs to raise their children are getting older and no longer need big homes, but their children’s generation doesn’t have the desire—nevermind the savings—to buy up the houses, at least not at the prices boomers are looking for.

The Northeast has long been growing more slowly than other, warmer, parts of the country. Now, parts of the region are starting to see net losses in population. Between 2014 and 2015, Connecticut lost nearly 4,000 residents as Florida, a retirement hub, added 366,000. During that same period, the Northeast and Midwest together lost half a million people to the South and West. “Where the real action is is the Sun Belt,” William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institute, told me.

The losses are exacerbated by the fact that the region’s median age is growing. Connecticut, alongside New England neighbors Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, is one of only a few states to have a median age over 40, which means half of its population is over child-bearing age, according to Peter Francese, a New Hampshire-based demographer. “Connecticut is a basketcase demographically, as are many of the states in New England,” Francese told me.

June not a good month for Jersey jobs

Posted in Economics, New Jersey Real Estate | 61 Comments

From the Record:

N.J. employment drops by 4,700 jobs

New Jersey employment declined by 4,700 jobs in July, according to preliminary data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, following a strong jobs report in June. The jobless rate rose to 5.2 percent last month from 5.1 percent.

The latest data puts the brakes on job-creation momentum in the state. In June, New Jersey’s private sector added 22,200 jobs in June, its best month since February 1996. The jobs total was lifted by the return to work of thousands of striking Verizon employees. The jobs report today said previously released June estimates were revised lower by 4,200, to show an over-the-month non-farm employment gain of 16,100 nonfarm jobs.

“The downward revision to June’s payroll figure is unsurprising given how strong the preliminary estimate was. This combined with July’s job loss clearly illustrates the volatility that has characterized monthly payroll growth throughout 2016,’’ said James Wooster, chief economist for the New Jersey Department of Treasury, in a statement.

Sectors that contracted in July were construction (-3,200), professional and business services (-2,400), leisure and hospitality (-1,600) and information (-400). The public sector recorded a loss of 300 jobs.

Industries that gained employment in July included education and health services (+1,000), manufacturing (+900), financial activities (+800), other services (+400), and trade, transportation and utilities (+200).

LI Market Burnout?

Posted in Economics, Housing Recovery, NYC, New Jersey Real Estate | 86 Comments

From LI Business News:

LI home prices fall along with sales

The median prices of Long Island homes contracted for sale in July dropped as the number of sales also declined as compared with the previous month.

In Nassau County, the median price of pending home sales fell to $450,000 last month, a 7.2 percent decrease from the $485,000 median price recorded in June, according to a preliminary market report from the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island. The median price of homes contracted for sale in Suffolk County dipped last month as well, but only slightly. Suffolk’s median price of pending sales in July was $345,000, down just 0.06 percent from the $347,000 median price recorded in June.

However, home prices have risen slightly when compared with a year ago. In Nassau the median price of homes contracted for sale in July is up 1.1 percent from the $445,000 median of July 2015. In Suffolk, the median price for pending home sales last month is up 3.9 percent from the $332,000 median recorded in July 2015.

The number of pending Long Island home sales also fell in July, after six straight months of year-over-year gains in 2016. There were 2,576 homes contracted for sale in Nassau and Suffolk counties last month, a drop of nearly 4.5 percent from the 2,696 pending sales recorded in July 2015. Nassau saw the biggest drop in pending sales last month with a 7.5 percent year-over-year decline.

Schools, schools, schools.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, National Real Estate | 100 Comments

From CBS MoneyWatch:

How great school districts boost home prices

You’ve heard that location is the most important thing to consider when buying a home? New research says that may be true only if that location happens to be in a good school district. Homes in the best districts sell faster and for nearly 50 percent more than the average house.

A study by Realtor.com looked at all open real estate listings at the end of July and compared listing prices in school districts that commanded the top two ratings from GreatSchools.org. The result was noteworthy.

Homes in great school districts — ranking a 9 or 10 on Great School’s 10-point scale — commanded an average price of $400,000 compared with the national median price of $269,000. Homes in poor school districts sold at a near 16 percent discount to the national median price, or $225,000 on average, according to the study.

“Our analysis quantifies just how good it is to be a seller in a good school district,” said Javiar Vivas, research analyst for Realtor.com.

If you have school-aged children, there’s a practical reason for the disparity. Sending your kids to private schools can cost a fortune. Private School Review estimates that the average cost of sending a child to private grammar school is $8,522 per year, while private high school tuition runs nearly $13,000 per year.

Assuming one child goes to private schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, that adds up to $128,510 per child — almost exactly the same as the disparity in median home prices.

Based on those medians, a family that would otherwise send two or more children to private schools would be far better off paying up for a home in a better school district instead. However, both the Realtor.com data and the data on private schools reveak wide disparities in how much private schools cost from region to region — and how much of a premium you can expect to pay for a home in a good school district.

So much for dragging out foreclosures

Posted in Foreclosures, Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate | 51 Comments

From the APP:

NJ leads nation in quarterly foreclosure starts

New Jersey led the nation in foreclosure starts in the second quarter, as the mortgage industry continues to deal with a backlog of loans that went bad in the housing crash.

Lenders started foreclosure proceedings on 0.75 percent of mortgages in the state during the quarter, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported this week. That compares with a national rate of 0.32 percent, the lowest rate since 2000.

And about 11.6 percent of New Jersey mortgages were either in foreclosure or delinquent on payments during the quarter. While that number is down from 13.6 percent in the second quarter of 2015, it is still almost twice the national rate of 6.3 percent, according to the MBA.

The worst of the foreclosure crisis has passed in most of the nation. But the process has been delayed in New Jersey because the state requires lenders to go through the courts to evict homeowners who default. In addition, the state slowed down foreclosure activity several years ago while the mortgage industry answered allegations of abusing homeowners’ rights.

In the first half of the year, the mortgage industry has started foreclosures on 15,346 homes in New Jersey, down from about 20,000 in the same period last year. It takes, on average, more than three years to evict a homeowner in default in New Jersey, among the longest periods in the country, according to Attom Data Solutions, a California company that tracks real estate markets around the nation.

Does housing make a middle class? Or does the middle class make housing?

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate | 101 Comments

From the WSJ:

Lopsided Housing Rebound Leaves Millions of People Out in the Cold

The housing recovery that began in 2012 has lifted the overall market but left behind a broad swath of the middle class, threatening to create a generation of permanent renters and sowing economic anxiety and frustration for millions of Americans.

Home prices rose in 83% of the nation’s 178 major real-estate markets in the second quarter, according to figures released Wednesday by the National Association of Realtors. Overall prices are now just 2% below the peak reached in July 2006, according to S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices.

But most of the price gains, economists said, stem from a lack of fresh supply rather than a surge of buyers. The pace of new home construction remains at levels typically associated with recessions, while the homeownership rate in the second quarter was at its lowest point since the Census Bureau began tracking quarterly data in 1965 and the share of first-time home purchases remains mired near three-decade lows.

The lopsided recovery has shut out millions of aspiring homeowners who have been forced to rent because of damaged credit, swelling student loans, tough credit standards and a dearth of affordable homes, economists said.

In all, some 200,000 to 300,000 fewer U.S. households are purchasing a new home each year than would during normal market conditions, estimates Ken Rosen, chairman of the Fisher Center of Real Estate and Urban Economics at the University of California at Berkeley.

“I don’t think we are in a normal housing market,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors. “The losers are clearly the rising rental population that isn’t able to participate in this housing equity appreciation. They are missing out on [a big] source of middle-class wealth.”

While economists expected the homeownership rate to begin edging up this year, the rate fell to a 51-year low of 62.9% in the second quarter from 63.4% in the same quarter last year.

The rate could fall to 58% or lower by 2050, according to a recent prediction by housing experts Arthur Acolin of the University of Southern California, Laurie Goodman of the Urban Institute and Susan Wachter of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Long-term declines could erase gains made by middle-class Americans since World War II. Owning a home provides protection against rising rents and has been a key component of retirement saving and wealth creation.

“The default savings mechanism for American households has been homeownership,” Ms. Wachter said. “Today we have historic lows for young households in terms of ownership so they’re not getting on this path.”

Sandy Who?

Posted in Housing Recovery, Shore Real Estate | 103 Comments

From the Washington Post:

Four years after Sandy, the coastal real estate market is recovering

Hurricane Sandy stretched from the central Appalachians well into New England when it came ashore nearly four years ago, tearing through thousands of homes and leaving more than $70 billion in damage in its wake. The storm, which left miles of shoreline buried in sand and killed 182 people, still ranks as the second-costliest in American history after Katrina.

Since then, coastal real estate markets pounded by the storm have mostly recovered, thanks in part to federal, state and local governments pouring billions of dollars into repairing and replacing much of its damaged coastline.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers moved millions of cubic yards of sand onto shoreline areas from New Jersey to Maine in an effort to fortify beachfront battered by the storm. The restoration and resiliency projects are part of the $51 billion relief package passed by Congress in the wake of the disaster.

Local home builders and developers are also again erecting new properties in many locations, including some beachfront communities that rank among the most expensive for real estate in the country. From seaside towns along the Connecticut coast and the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island, to locations on the Jersey Shore and Far Rockaway in Queens, property values in many places are again rising and buyers returning, real estate data show.

In the wake of the storm, flood insurance premiums rose sharply, and many municipalities established tighter guidelines on how and where to build along the coast. The new building restrictions reflected rising sea levels and flood risk and followed federal emergency management standards in rebuilding homes to withstand future storms.

The tighter restrictions initially hampered the waterfront property market in more affluent areas, but nearly four years after Sandy some of the priciest coastline locations are now rebuilt and seeing sharp increases in property sales.

Along the New Jersey coast, counties hit hardest by Sandy are still grappling with closed streets, broken streetlights and unfinished boardwalks. The storm also wiped out thousands of homes, many of which haven’t been rebuilt.

The empty lots in working class shoreline communities such as Ocean and Monmouth counties are not only causing blight: With thousands of homes no longer there, the towns and school districts that count on the property taxes collected from these homes to fund their budget are still wrestling with shortfalls.

Foreclosures at 9 year low

Posted in Foreclosures, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 104 Comments

From HousingWire:

Corelogic: Foreclosure inventory finally back to housing-boom levels

Foreclosure inventory declined yet again in June, but completed foreclosures, while down from last year, increased from last month, according to CoreLogic, property information, analytics and data-enabled solutions provider.

CoreLogic’s June 2016 National Foreclosure Report showed the inventory declined 25.9% from last year, and completed foreclosures declined 4.9%. On the other hand, completed foreclosures increased 5.1% to 38,000 from last month.

For comparison, during the housing boom, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month from 2000 to 2006.

Even though completed foreclosures increased from last month, foreclosure inventory still saw a monthly decline of 3.6%.

According CoreLogic’s report last month, May’s foreclosure inventory hit the lowest level in nearly nine years.

Last month’s report from RealtyTrac also shows that more homeowners are keeping their homes out of foreclosure than ever before, down 17% from one year ago and the lowest level for any half-year period since RealtyTrac began tracking foreclosure starts in 2006, the company said.

The foreclosure inventory is the number of homes at some stage of the foreclosure process while completed foreclosures show the total number of homes lost to foreclosure.

“The impact of the inexorable reduction over the past several years in both foreclosure trends and serious delinquencies is driving the long-awaited return to more historic norms for the U.S. housing market,” CoreLogic President and CEO Anand Nallathambi said.

“We expect the combination of continued home price appreciation of more than 5% and rising employment levels in the year ahead will help cement the gains we have had and perhaps accelerate them,” Nallathambi said.

In June, the national foreclosure inventory included about 375,000, or 1%, of homes with a mortgage. This is down from last year when foreclosure inventory consisted of 507,000 homes, or 1.3%.

In fact, the foreclosure inventory rate is the lowest for any month since August 2007.

Good Riddance to the Hamilton Projects

Posted in Housing Recovery, New Development, North Jersey Real Estate | 95 Comments

From the Record:

Rebirth of an urban neighborhood in Paterson

Growing up in Paterson, Sandra Drysdale had lots of friends living in the Alexander Hamilton housing complex. But what she heard about crime and drug-dealing there made her afraid to visit.

Now, she lives with her husband and sons on the site of the old complex, in a rented town house — which she describes as “gorgeous” — at a new subsidized development called Heritage at Alexander Hamilton.

“I love this place,” Drysdale, 56, said recently. “It’s so quiet, and everybody watches out for each other. … It’s a community.”

The foreboding old brick buildings — built in the 1950s and known informally as the Alabama projects, for nearby Alabama Avenue — were torn down in 2010 and replaced by the new development, a collection of 205 town houses and semi-detached homes. The new development, which includes a community center and space for a preschool, recently won a Smart Growth award from New Jersey Future.

The development’s 180 rentals are filled, and about half a dozen of the planned 25 for-sale units are sold, with more under contract. The development is almost complete, except for the construction of the preschool and about nine homes.

Heritage at Alexander Hamilton, which is just north of Route 80 near Paterson’s Market Street exit, reflects a shift in thinking about affordable housing. After large urban public-housing complexes around the nation became magnets for drugs and crime, a number of them were demolished to make way for a less dense style of development. The idea was to dilute the concentration of poverty as a way to reduce social problems.

Those problems were rampant at the old Alexander Hamilton housing complex, which consisted of 498 units in five high-rises and nine low-rises. Because it was so close to Route 80, drug dealers could easily sell to users who drove in from the suburbs. Gunfire was common.

“With the high-rises, we had a lot of indefensible space that was not owned or monitored by anyone,” said Wilfredo “Fred” Vazquez, director of modernization and development for the Paterson Housing Authority.

In these spaces – such as stairwells, courtyards and entry halls – trouble had a way of muscling in. The goal of the new development was to have “eyes on the street,” Vazquez said.

“Every house has windows where you can see what’s going on,” he said. Jerry Speziale, Paterson’s police director, estimates that with the redevelopment, crime in the complex has dropped by as much as 90 percent. “It’s become a very quiet community,” Speziale said.

Dirt gets more expensive

Posted in Economics, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 67 Comments

From the WSJ:

Low Supply Lifts Housing Lot Prices To a Record

The prices home builders pay for single-family lots hit a record high in the U.S. last year, a sign that a scarce supply of developed land is pushing up the cost of new homes.

Median single-family lot prices were $45,000 last year, surpassing the previous peak of $43,000 at the height of the housing boom in 2006, according to an analysis of the most recent census data by the National Association of Home Builders.

The dynamics of this expansion, however, are far different from a decade ago.

Prices for developed lots in 2006 were driven up by record levels of demand: Buyers had easy access to credit and builders rushed to deliver as many new homes as possible.

This time, there is more caution. Builders last year began construction on 714,500 single-family homes, less than half as many as in 2006. That suggests lot prices today are being pushed up by low inventories of developed land.

Builders responding to a national housing-market survey in May reported the lowest supply of lots since the survey started in 1997.

Prices have hit record highs even as the typical lot has been shrinking. Median lot sizes for single-family homes last year dropped to 8,589 square feet, the lowest since the Census started consistently tracking the data in the early 1990s.

Some of that reflects changing preferences of both home buyers and builders, who so far in the recovery have tended to cluster more in core urban and suburban markets where land is less plentiful.

Because of the higher price tag for the land, Mr. Donnelly said he has to think smaller to keep home prices in check for potential buyers.

“Really the only way to stay affordable is to increase the density and reduce the size of the houses,” he said.