Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Wednesday, February 8, 2012, 2:41 PM 2 Comments
This research paper from the Boston Fed addresses the issue of “House Lock” – the idea that people who have negative equity on their homes are trapped and can not migrate to where the jobs are.
…These observations have raised concerns that the prolonged weakness in the U.S. housing market is keeping unemployment high by preventing homeowners who have negative equity from relocating to other states with better job markets. Having a negative equity position in their homes is likely to further deter homeowners from selling in an already weak housing market. Other options, such as engaging in a short sale or strategically defaulting on the loan, can be costly in terms of lost value or a damaged credit record. And in all likelihood, the number of underwater households is likely to persist as house prices continue to fall in many areas due to continually high levels of unemployment and foreclosure.
The report concludes that there is NOT a strong correlation between people stuck in their homes and the high unemployment rate.
home owners are already less transient than renters and account for only 20% of state-to-state migration.
negative equity reduces the probably of migration but does not impact unemployment rates.
Still it seems to me that Fed has become much more focused on housing as the way to fix the economy as of late. Of course, this is not official Fed policy speaking in this paper, but with what feels like an increase in housing related research (or I am super sensitive to this as of late), maybe it represents the “Id” of the Fed mindset. You can see it in the last sentence of the paper:
Instead, increased efforts to alleviate the housing sector’s drag on the economy— such as helping more homeowners to refinance or stemming the tide of foreclosures—may be more effective at stimulating aggregate demand and reducing the high rate of joblessness during the recovery.
Are American Homeowners Locked into Their Houses? The Impact of Housing Market Conditions on State-to-State Migration [Federal Reserve Bank of Boston]
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Monday, January 9, 2012, 6:00 AM 1 Comment
Ok, so I thought my son shooting a basket would be better than a boring graphic of the Fed – indulge me. I’ll say “the Fed took the ball drove and took a well executed shot.” Ok, back to the Fed’s sort of full court press…
From the FT: Finally, a regulatory body offers tangible realistic advice on housing to Washington policy makers:
Among the ideas is forming a national strategy to facilitate the conversion of foreclosed properties into rentals; allowing banks to rent their repossessed homes rather than forcing lenders to sell them; changing the compensation structure for mortgage servicers, companies that collect payments from borrowers and pursue foreclosures in the event of a default; creating a national online registry of liens to track ownership interests; and altering existing Obama administration policies to allow for more refinancings and mortgage restructurings.
The insight was provided to the Financial Services committees (who brought us Dodd-Frank) and while much of this has already been considered or is in the works, it’s presentation by the Fed all in one message helps bring clarity.
I like these ideas since they are foreclosure-centric and US housing doesn’t recover until we clear the market of excess foreclosure volume.
Here’s the Fed’s white paper - what jumped out at me came in the beginning with the fed identifying housing as a key economic problem:
a persistent excess supply of vacant homes on the market, many of which stem from foreclosures
a marked and potentially long-term downshift in the supply of mortgage credit
the costs that an often unwieldy and inefficient foreclosure process imposes on homeowners, lenders, and communities.
I really like the rental idea for REO houses stuck in lender inventory. In many cases, lenders are forced to sell so they don’t fall below their capitalization requirements by the regulators. Now they would be able to rent the property out to get the cash flow going plus having an occupant helps protect the asset.
Here’s a crazy and too simplistic but-it-sounds-like-a-reasonable-foreclosure-failure-spiral:
Home sales are weak because credit is so tight
The rental market is strong because credit is tight – rents are rising.
Consumers have less disposable income to help the economy because rents are high.
As more rental supply becomes available from Fed recommendation, renting becomes more affordable.
More affordable rents delay increase of home sales.