What Real Estate Crisis?

Lately, when I tell people I meet that I work in real estate, they respond with a sympathetic look and mutter some kind of apology for the current state of the market.

People of Huntsville, this has got to stop.

Everyone has been brainwashed by fear-provoking media headlines about real estate: “Home Prices Crash!”, “Overall Sales Take Devastating Downturn!”, “Real Estate Recession!”. Even if the real estate market was truly in as tragic a condition as people think, we’re all forgetting one thing – Huntsville is unique.

The city of Huntsville seems to be the exception to the rule in many cases, and the real estate market is no different. I’d like to take a moment to dispel a few real estate myths to prevent a dangerous misconception from becoming a reality.

Myth #1: Home prices are drastically down, causing sellers to lose their equity.

Reality: According to the North Alabama Multiple Listing Service (NALMLS), average home prices in the Huntsville/Madison area have increased over five percent since 2006, and almost 20 percent since 2004.

Myth #2: The overall number of home sales has decreased.

Reality: From 2006 to 2007, the number of home sales has indeed dropped. By two percent. This number is hardly alarming when compared with the overall picture of home sales since 2004, which has increased by 18.5 percent.

Myth #3: The Huntsville real estate market is down, paralleling national real estate trends.

Reality: The dollar volume of sold listings has increased four percent from 2006, 17 percent since 2005, and 45.4 percent from 2004. This is not exactly the recession that everyone fears it to be.

Now that we’ve unveiled the truth about the Huntsville real estate market, let’s take a moment to address one other area of popular concern: the subprime mortgage market.

The “collapse” of subprime lending has garnered much attention, making potential buyers question their ability to qualify for a home loan. What kind of person generally applies for a subprime loan? The kind that cannot qualify for a conventional loan. Oftentimes, those applying for subprime loans have credit scores below 620. How does one get a credit score below 620? One easy way is to fall into debt. If you fall into, or are already in debt, how easy is it to make your extremely high interest payments on your subprime loan?

Subprime lenders made their money by offering high interest loans to people who traditionally could not qualify for homeownership, often based on the previously stated fact that they – that’s right – don’t pay their bills. What made anyone think that for these people, their mortgage would be different? This is a game of risk for those lenders, which eventually burned them. The instability of the subprime concept should have been a heads-up to someone this game couldn’t go on forever.

So, what percentage of mortgages does the subprime market comprise? According to Freddie Mac, about five percent. The supposed trouble is that so many of these subprime borrowers are defaulting on their mortgages, right? What percentage of these borrowers are delinquent? In the second quarter of this year, the delinquency rate was 14.82 percent. So in reality, there is a “crisis” among 14.82 percent of five percent of borrowers. This comes out to less than one percent of all homeowners. 0.7 percent to be exact. A greater percentage of the population voted for Dennis Kucinich in the 2004 Presidential primary – now that’s a crisis.

So what does all this mean for Huntsville? It depends. If everyone continues to run around in Chicken Little-fashion, bemoaning the fall of the sky, this lunacy will indeed materialize into a lack of buyer confidence, potentially triggering an actual decline in the real estate market. How do we stop this? Pick up the phone right now and call five people to tell them the great news about Huntsville real estate.

Let’s do the numbers…

U.S. Census Bureau


The homeownership rate in the third quarter 2007 (68.2 percent) was lower than the third quarter 2006 rate (69.0 percent). The homeownership rates in the Midwest and West were lower a year ago, while rates in the other regions did not change significantly.

New Home Sales

Sales of new one-family houses in September 2007 were 4.8% above August 2007 figures.

Office of Federal Housing and Enterprise Oversight

Housing Price Index – Fourth Quarter Appreciation

According to the Office of Federal Housing and Enterprise Oversight, housing prices in Alabama will appreciate 6.6% in the fourth quarter of 2007, compared with housing prices in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Other state numbers are included below:

Georgia: 4.7%

Tennessee: 6.6%

Florida: 1.3%

South Carolina: 6.3%

Freddie Mac

Primary Mortgage Market Summary

30-yr 15-yr
Avg. Rate 6.26% 5.91%
Fees/Pts 0.4 0.4

Standard & Poor’s

Case-Shiller Home Price Index

Regardless of the media hype about the drop in home prices, the real value of a single-family house in the United States has more than doubled in 10 years, according to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Index. In fact, in some markets, it has tripled.

Moody’s Economy.com Survey of Business Confidence

Behind the numbers

· U.S. business confidence remains weak and fragile. Sentiment has stabilized since falling sharply during this summer’s subprime financial shock, but it has yet to meaningfully revive.

· Conditions elsewhere across the globe are measurably better. Asian businesses are consistently the most upbeat, with sentiment close to its pre-shock level.

· Real estate firms are the most pessimistic. Financial service firms have turned somewhat more upbeat in recent weeks, but heretofore optimistic manufacturers are turning less so. High-tech firms are the most positive.

In the News…

U.S. Inflation Worries Seem Overblown

Last week’s GDP report contained good news on inflation, with the headline consumer price deflator rising just 1.7% at an annual rate, down from 4.3% in the second quarter. Falling energy prices were a major contributor to this weaker trend, but this is only part of the story. The core PCE price deflator, which strips out volatile food and energy components and is the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, rose by less than 2% both on a quarterly annualized basis and year over year, the first such occurrence since 2003.

Banks Make it More Difficult to Get a Loan

According to the latest Senior Loan Officer Survey, banks are tightening lending standards on prime, nontraditional and subprime residential mortgages.

Business Week

Southern Comfort in Real Estate Investing

For undervalued, affordable housing with a good outlook for home-price and job-market growth, there’s one region of the country that stands out: the South. Metro areas are all expected to see home prices increase more than 5% over the next two years — a big figure in a country where home prices are expected to trend downward overall.

“If you exclude Florida, the one area of the country that has a good outlook with respect to affordable housing and job growth is really the South,” says Stiff. “There are other places in the country that have one of those things, but not both.” The Midwest, for instance, has affordable housing but increasing unemployment, while the West has job growth but very expensive housing.

It’s true — you can find bargains in any area of the U.S. these days, though it helps to have a starting point. “Right now, across the country, this is a good time to buy,” says Gillespie, citing the usual three incentives: lower prices, high inventory and relatively low mortgage rates.

Kandi Wright
Client Care Coordinator
Amanda Howard Real Estate
900 Merchants Walk, Suite A, Huntsville, AL  35801
Phone and Fax: 256-799-9000

What Real Estate Crisis?

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