Friday, January 7, 2011

When will housing come back in California?

Happy New Year!

Foreclosures in the state are still high. Sales of new homes are at historic lows. And millions of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages. So what's the outlook for 2011 and beyond?

Although the steep decline of home prices in California ended in spring 2009, the weakness in the housing market after the expiration of federal tax credits for home buyers last year has led to some speculation as to whether the recovery is sustainable. Five experts, including Leslie Appleton-Young, the chief economist for the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, were asked to provide their view on the state of real estate and what they think is needed to get the housing market moving again.

• In terms of home prices, the experts differed slightly with the majority predicting that home prices will remain flat throughout 2011. Ms. Appleton-Young predicts home prices will rise 2 percent this year, while a foreclosure expert predicts housing prices to decline 5 percent in 2011. According to Ms. Appleton-Young, there is little chance of home prices returning to their previous peak levels anytime soon. “We are in a slow-moving recovery with prices stabilized at the moderate and low end,” she said. “We are still seeing price attrition and price softening at the upper ends of the market.” 2011 will be lackluster, she said, but that does not mean California is not improving. "We are almost two years into a price recovery. The problem is not to look at 2007 as the normal market that you are moving back up to, because it wasn't a normal market. We are back in an underwriting environment that actually makes sense." "You are seeing prices recovering throughout the state," she added. "It is just going to take time."

• California’s recovery will hinge on location, according to Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. Areas between El Centro and Sacramento likely will not see a return to peak prices for a long time. However, places like La Jolla, Laguna, Huntington Beach, Atherton, Palo Alto, the city of San Francisco, and Marin County could experience a return to their peak prices within the next five years, according to Mr. Green.

• Foreclosure expert Bruce Norris of the Norris Group believes the market is being artificially boosted by government programs and is set to fall further this year. Mr. Norris believes the demand for housing is most-needed for a sustainable recovery.

• California’s coastal markets will make a return once the job market improves, according to Emile Haddad, chief executive at FivePoint Communities Inc. In turn, that will lift consumer confidence. However, California’s inland areas are more likely to lag behind, and builders will have to reconsider the kind of product they offer in certain places.

• Former UCLA senior economist Christopher Thornberg, predicts home prices will remain flat in 2011. Thornberg was one of the first to predict the housing crash, pointing to prices that were way out of line with what people earned. In that vein, he views the plunge in home values as its own recovery of sorts "because that is when prices went from stupid-high levels to levels that made sense again," Thornberg said. "Now we are in a post-recovery recovery, if you will."

Here in the South Bay we are still treading water! Looking forward to a stabilizing market in 2011 through 2012 and price increases equal to inflation only. Those downsizing or moving up this year will find plenty of good quality housing at great prices. Don't forget we still have the lowest interest rates in over 30 years available today at fixed rates!