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This Time We Are Sounding the Alarms

Occasionally, Steve Harney, our founder and lead content creator, asks us permission to share his personal feelings on a current real estate issue. Today is one of those times. – The KCM Crew

One of the things I often hear from people I meet is that real estate and mortgage professionals should have seen the current housing crisis coming and done something to prevent it. We should have realized that easing lending practices would lead to millions of families buying a home they could never afford. We should have warned our neighbors not to use their homes as ATMs. We should have realized that the economy could never withstand such growth and was about to crash.

Maybe these people are correct. Looking back, perhaps we could have been better stewards of the home buying process. We are committed to not making that same mistake again. Now, if we see a possible challenge in the future, we will speak up. That is what caused the writing of this blog post.

WE MUST SOUND THE ALARMS!

ALARM: Homeownership Percentage Has Dropped Dramatically!!

MSNBC.com, in an article entitled Housing Bust Worst Since Great Depression reported:

“The analysis by the Census Bureau found the homeownership rate fell to 65.1 percent last year… analysts say the U.S. may never return to its mid-decade housing boom peak in which nearly 70 percent of occupied households were owned by their residents.”

ALARM: People Are Losing Hope in the American Dream

In the same article, Patrick Newport, economist with IHS Global Insight is quoted saying:

“The changes now taking place are mind-boggling: the housing market has completely crashed and attitudes toward housing are shifting from owning to renting. While 10 years ago owning a home was the American Dream, I’m not sure a lot of people still think that way.”

ALARM: The Safety and Well Being of the Family Being Sacrificed

If we look at Fannie Mae’s quarterly National Home Survey, as far back as we can go, the top four reasons for buying a home are the same. The top four reasons people buy a home are:

  1. It means having a good place to raise children and provide them with a good education
  2. To have a physical structure where their family feels safe
  3. It allows for more space for their family
  4. It gives them control over what they do with their living space including renovations and updates.

Are children no longer important? Is safety less of a consideration today? Is the pride of homeownership soon to be forgotten? We must look at the long range consequences of being a renters’ society.

ALARM: Building Family Wealth Being Threatened

Let’s look at homeownership as an investment. The Federal Reserve does a survey every 3 years. In 1998 the average Homeowner’s net worth exceeded that of renters by 31 times. In 2001 it was 36 times and eventually in 2007 it was all the way up to 46 times that of renters. Now, homeownership isn’t about a guaranteed financial short-term return – the market goes up, down and back up again. We have to be prepared for the long-term and a key component to wealth is homeownership. Even in these toughest of times, the wealth of the homeowner is over 30 times that of renters.

At a time when we are discussing the gap in wealth between the top 1% and the other 99%, how does the less fortunate paying rent to pay off the mortgages of the more fortunate make any sense?

Bottom Line

Homeownership is important to the American family. If we lose this as a basic concept, what else do we lose? We didn’t realize the consequences when it was too easy to buy a house a few years ago and we are paying a price for that. We will pay an even larger price if we don’t realize the consequences of it being much too difficult for many to own a home today. SOUND THE ALARMS!


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18 replies
  1. RJ Avery
    RJ Avery says:

    I don’t get it… So what are you saying? Does it not make perfect logical sense that right after the crash that you are half way admitting professionals should have seen had they not bee cashing commission checks faster than ever?

    Ownership would drop duh???? 620 to 640 Credit Scores and 3.5 % down is a completely fair base level of qualification.. So once again this article is confusing… What alarm are you sounding.. Are they planning on raising the requirements… Are you gonna spread the myth that you need 20% down or are going to soon?

    And why does it make sense for the less fortunate to pay of the mortgages of the more fortunate… Well its the responsibility aspect… Within that 99% there are all levels of responsibility and truth be known a lot of the people that were just given houses should be renting from someone who is also in the 99% until they can gain the credentials to own..

    So sorry the idea that American Home Ownership is a right was the same load of crap that was sold to get us in this mess and I don’t understand how pushing it again will help in anyway. Realistically at this point with the glut of inventory out there it only makes sense that the more responsible of the 99% buy up the crap inventory and get it in condition to rent to those who cannot qualify at this time… And or shouldn’t buy because they are not sure they will be in the same place for an extended amount of time..

    Reply
  2. bob connely
    bob connely says:

    Jeez RJ,

    He is sounding the alarm that home ownership is a cornerstone of family and community prosperity. He is reminding people of this, in a world where people are quickly losing faith in the idea of owning a home. He says it over and over in the article. Steve named four reasons why he is sounding the alarm, four legitimate reasons. CAN YOU NOT READ? or are you just taking this opportunity to sound off from your little soap box? What are you talking about 99% what does that mean? You went on a unrelated…rant. Just stop it.

    -BC

    Reply
  3. Kelly Hannah
    Kelly Hannah says:

    Even so, it’s not all about dollars and cents investments or the American dream. One of human beings’ deepest, most primal connections in this life is with our home, our shelter, our private retreat after a day of working to survive – a place where we can take respite from the elements; the complications and pressures of society. Whether a cave Altamira, Spain or a tee pee in Sante Fe, New Mexico or a contemporary estate in Los Angeles, California the land on which which your home is built will invariably be owned and controlled by someone; an individual, a group of partners, or any of of a multitude of organizations including governments. Prudent action to preserve the rights to one of your most basic needs as a human being will prove invaluable – Purchase a home!

    Reply
  4. Mr. K
    Mr. K says:

    Steve, you’re sounding a lot like Henny Penny. The sky is not falling on the American Dream of home ownership. It is simply making a correction. It happens in stocks, commodities, real estate, etc. Home ownership dropping from 70% to 65% is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. In your opening statement you admitted that many people who couldn’t afford a home were given the opportunity to buy…and they did. Those are the folks that jumped the figures up to 70%! We know from numerous surveys that people still see home ownership as important and desirable…we are in no danger of losing Home Ownership as a basic concept. On this point there is no need to be sounding an alarm. If you weren’t aware of people sounding the alarms about the negative results of Governmental intervention in the market place to make it easier for marginal buyers to own homes then you just weren’t paying attention. Home ownership will return to sustainable levels once our government allows the market to operate free of intervention for political gain.

    Reply
  5. Steve Harney
    Steve Harney says:

    It strikes me funny that so many accused us of not stepping up five years ago and speaking to the future consequencies of bad housing policy and now call us alarmists when we do step up to discuss future consequencies of today’s policies.

    Reply
  6. Mr. K
    Mr. K says:

    Those who responded to you are not the ones that accused “us” of not stepping up five years ago. Many economists, etc. did sound alarms of the consequences of politician’s quest to increase home ownership. And that fell on deaf ears.
    You are an alarmist today because you are saying that the whole future of home ownership is in jeopardy. And that simply is NOT true. If home ownership is still possible for even 50% of the population then it is still alive and well. The bottom line is that home ownership should only be made available to people who have made themselves responsible and credit worthy….whether that’s 10% of the population or 100%. In hard economic times fewer people will qualify, and in good times more will qualify. The pendulum of qualifications is always swinging from one extreme to the other, and now is no exception.

    Reply
    • Steve Harney
      Steve Harney says:

      @ Mr. K –

      My comment was definitely not directed at your post (though I can understand why you might think so). Here is my challenge in a nutshell: studies have shown that if we applied current financing standards to the loans written in 2006 it would impact delinquency rates by LESS THAN 2%. At the same time, it would have deemed over 25% of buyers ‘unqualified’. The risk reward doesn’t seem to make sense. I am not suggesting that we go back to 2006 standards. I am only suggesting that the pendulum has swung back too far.

      Now, to repond directly to a point you made: if the homeownership rate fell to 50% it would be a disaster for American families. Just the fact that you can even think of making the arguement that “If home ownership is still possible for even 50% of the population then it is still alive and well.” proves my point that our feelings toward homeownership have dramatically changed.

      Reply
  7. Mr. K
    Mr. K says:

    Steve, thank you for your responses. My feelings about home ownership have never changed. Not everyone is responsible and credit worthy. People should not be allowed to purchase a home until they are. If only 50% of the population is responsible then only 50% should be home owners. Until they make up their minds to become responsible, the long term equity build up of a property should go to an investor who IS responsible. All actions have consequences. Qualifications are tougher today because lenders need MORE assurance that the borrower won’t walk. You, I, and many others believe that there is probably another 10% drop in home values coming on the near horizon as the backlog of foreclosures come to market. Lenders would be nuts not to worry about the consequences of lending to anyone other than the “highly qualified”. Tight purse strings are prudent for everyone in today’s economy.

    Reply
  8. Steve Harney
    Steve Harney says:

    @ Mr. K –
    Some would argue the banks ‘tight purse strings’ actually are standing in the way of an economic recovery. Part of the reason there is a glut of distressed properties on the market is that those hoping to buy them are finding it difficult to find financing. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

    Reply
  9. Charlie
    Charlie says:

    Why did you delete my response? There wasn’t anything inappropriate in it??? Finding financing right now is not difficult Steve! What are you talking about? You’re supposed to know what’s going on. Unreal! Get in touch with reality!!!

    Reply
  10. Joe
    Joe says:

    http://optionarmageddon.ml-implode.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/home-ownership-rate.jpg

    This link is the closest to what I am looking for, as I am not a subscriber nor am I going to start working with the raw data. My main point is that it is probably not time to sound the alarm as it seems that the homeownership rate is in the process of reverting back to its long-run average of 64% to 65%. It also (pretty clearly) shows the debt-fueled and legislation-induced housing bubble that began in the mid-1990’s.

    There is no reason to panick about losing the concept of home ownership in the United States. This website says you have a 20-year history in this industry. About 75% of your experience co-incided with the massive bubble. Please do not let this limited history detract from analysis of the bigger picture (i.e. a longer-time frame for analysis like this is needed).

    Reply
  11. Steve Harney
    Steve Harney says:

    @ Joe –

    Thanks for the graph. Take a look at the ‘trend line’ from 1968 to 1980. We can see that if we continued that historic trend we would still be in the high 60’s as a percentage of homeownership. The recession of the early 80s pushed the number down as has the current economic situation.

    I’m not saying that we should go back to the practices of 2003. I am just concerned that there are benefits to homeownership for both individuals and communities. I hope you are correct that there is nothing to be concerned about. I’m trying to bring attention to the issue just in case.

    Reply
  12. knowdtruth
    knowdtruth says:

    Steve

    I think a lot of your res ponders don’t want to see the truth in what you are saying. A lot of people want to blame the mortgage crisis on people getting loans they could not afford when in actuality this made up a very small percentage of the issues that resulted in the mortgage crisis. There are a lot of consumers who are responsible and credit worthy who can not obtain mortgages now. In my market area this means a family who could own their home and pay $800.00 a month in mortgage is now renting and paying $1300.00 a month for the same home. Having to rent and not own is creating a financial crisis. If everyone takes the attitude that “those who can own do and the others that’s too bad” don’t clearly understand how it effects the entire community, city , and states.
    Steve
    Thanks for trying to show some awareness.

    Reply

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