There is no doubt that the housing market is stumbling to a recovery. This past week Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, predicted a 4% increase in sales next year. Last month, Celia Chen of Moody’s Analytics projected sales to increase over 20% in 2012. Any increase in transactions will be welcomed.
However, we believe there is one headwind that could jeopardize a recovery: fragile consumer confidence. Consumer sentiment, as measured by the University of Michigan, has seen modest improvement in the last few months after nose diving over the previous several months. Moving forward, any hit to consumer confidence will impact a real estate rebound.
Prices are predicted to soften through the first two quarters of 2012 before reaching modest levels of appreciation by year’s end. Falling prices will force more homeowners into a position of negative equity. Being underwater is one of the triggers that cause people to strategically default on their mortgage obligations. If this happens, there will be an increase in the number of foreclosures. This, in turn, could cause a relapse in consumer sentiment.
We believe that there will be a dramatic increase in residential real estate transactions (both existing sales and new construction sales). The only thing that may stand in the way is a loss of confidence in a housing recovery. The next six months will tell us a lot regarding this possibility.