Four out of five U.S. homes have a DVR, subscribe to Netflix, or use video-on-demand (VOD) service from their TV provider. That’s up from three out of four, last year. And, more significantly, now more than half of adults (57%) get a subscription VOD service (Netflix, Hulu, etc…). What, may you ask, does this have to do with housing or real-estate? Well, aside from the fact that I’m always actually interested in how we live in our homes, not just the homes themselves, it may have a huge impact on the future. As I wrote a while back, the size and shape of the average American home is changing. With more than half of adults getting their TV via the Internet, you might want to think about the future shape of the living room, and the place of the TV in it. Particularly if you’re planning on a remodel.
I just discovered the coolest thing — The Bloomberg Week Ahead. Maybe you folks already know about it, but it’s news to me, and it seems excellent. Granted, it’s not completely real-estate focused, but it does hit major economic highlights, including those pertaining to mortgage and real estate (e.g., it teed up the National Association of Realtors report, at 10AM Eastern, today). And with the interrelation of global economies and markets I’ve been writing about for a while, many of the other announcements are of interest as well.
My article on Tuesday may have gotten you thinking about putting your money to work somewhere harder in real estate. And that may, in turn, have gotten you lamenting the fact that you totally missed out on the Detroit recovery. Well, first of all, the Detroit recovery may not have been quite as solid as it’s been reported (sure, you can’t buy too many $500 houses any more, but median property values are still down 50% from 2006 peaks). But never mind Detroit. Detroit doesn’t have a beach. You need to be shopping in Puerto Rico.
The future of the housing market remains precarious — and remains precariously tied to the overall economy. As I wrote last week, there are a number of reasons that housing starts may be behind schedule — not least of all, a shortage in the labor market. January was also a rough month from a weather perspective, so it’s no surprise that housing-starts were down. However, building permits were also down in January, down 0.2%. Now, that’s a very small change, but it actually hides much larger volatility, with a 2.1% increase in multi-family units, but a 1.6% decrease in single-family permits.
A few months ago, I wrote about the fact that with U.S. houses priced as they are, and the strength of the U.S. dollar, it was perhaps time to consider shopping for your next property somewhere up north. Since then, the housing market has stayed strong, the dollar has stayed strong, and Chinese investment in the high-end of U.S. properties has continued. As a result, we’re now seeing actual flight from our neighbors to the north. Canadians are using the current housing/dollar market to take some profits.
Throughout the first half of the aughts, U.S. rental property vacancy rates hovered at the high 7% range (between 7.75 and 7.9). With the ’08 crash, vacancy rates jumped substantially, to well over 8%. But since the peak in 2009, vacancy rates have been steadily declining. As I pointed out last week, new houses aren’t being built as quickly as they’re being planned. The net result? We have way too few vacant homes. Of course, some markets are worse off than others, but no matter how you cut it, we need to be building more homes.
For almost all of 2015 we had an unusual state of affairs — the housing market looked great, because the filings for new permits kept looking great; but at the same time, housing starts didn’t manage to keep up, and sometimes even fell. The Fiscal Times has an interesting take on this that I hadn’t considered before: housing starts aren’t happening because contractors can’t hire enough workers. It’s interesting, because the labor market has unquestionably shrunk, but perhaps we’re back above full employment again.
Steve Goldstein, D.C. Bureau Chief for Marketwatch, contends that manufacturing and housing are yin-and-yang in the markets. While it is true that the housing market is running along at a frothy pace (and as Goldstein points out, is expected to grow at roughly twice the rate of inflation for the next two years), and it is true that manufacturing is being hurt by the strong dollar, it does not follow that these are yin-and-yang. In fact, I would argue this can only hold as a temporary state of affairs, and if manufacturing doesn’t improve, it could hurt housing, much the way housing hurt manufacturing after ’08.
Towards the end of last year, I wrote a few times about the fact that we have pretty much fully-recovered from the ’08 crash. In fact, some might argue that we’re in a bubble again, or at least very close. But we don’t often look at (or hear in the news about) what the long-term impact of the housing crash was, and who was most impacted. It’s probably a surprise to absolutely no one that there are far more renters in the market today than home owners. But exactly who got hit the hardest may surprise you quite a bit — mostly wealthy men.
A few weeks ago I wrote about a blog post from the Federal Reserve. In their blog post, they had explained why the rate hike shouldn’t impact long-term mortgage rates. And they were right. In fact, we’ve seen exactly the opposite happen. We’ve had weeks and weeks of decreasing rates on long-term, fixed-rate mortgage rates. So, what’s going on here? Well, long-term interest rates don’t follow the Fed funds rate, but they do track to 10 year Treasury bonds. And investors are flooding the bond market.