The Progression of the Housing Bubble in the Press: Financial and Economic Headlines from 2000 to 2009. The Psychology of the Financial Press and Reporting on the Housing Market.
I spent some time today going through a hundred headlines from this decade relating to the housing market. What I found is rather telling and may be contrary to what you would expect. Some in the press were early to the housing bubble but as the housing market grew stronger and the bubble expanded, many of those in the press pushed their assumptions aside and learned to love the housing bubble. Even as option ARMs and Alt-A loans made their way through the market, the housing bubble suddenly made many journalist pause and refrain from using common sense. The 27 headlines in this article are a fascinating study of economic psychology but also a case study in financial journalism.
What you will find in the following headlines is a scatterbrain attempt of the media trying to make sense of an economic bubble. Instead of examining the deeper intricacies of the market and looking at the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve the media seemed to report what was one step in front of it. If that is the case, then who is really minding the store?
Let us go through each year and watch as the housing market was reported in the press for the past decade. The evolution is fascinating.
2000 – Incredibly, we find articles were the press is questioning affordability, looking at incomes, and even wondering if housing has hit a peak!
May 18, 2000 (USA Today)
Priced out of Silicon Valley Insane housing market is pushing away teachers, police
“Local governments prosper from higher tax revenue, but a real- estate market that stretches reality keeps hammering the middle class. Escalating rents and housing prices make it particularly hard for teachers, police officers and city workers to live where they work, or even close to where they work. Many can neither afford the rents nor qualify for mortgages. Increasingly they are leaving for jobs outside Silicon Valley.”
May 23, 2000 (Business Week)
Has the Housing Market Hit Its Ceiling?
“For several years, economists have unsuccessfully tried to call the top of the white-hot housing market. Each time they’ve been foiled by unexpected stock market gains that boosted consumer confidence and wealth. But with stocks cooling off since the start of the year and interest-rate hikes coming in bigger increments from the Federal Reserve, the experts may finally get it right.”
September 14, 2000 (L.A. Times)
Heat Wave Hits Housing Market; Declining 30-year mortgage rates, rising consumer confidence push county’s median price up 14% from ’99.
“Led by spectacular gains in the new-home market, the median price of Orange County houses and condos sold last month jumped by 14% from a year earlier to a new record of $274,000.
Even so, the big price gains in markets such as Orange County have shut out more and more families. Based on income estimates and mortgage rates, only 27% of Orange County families can purchase an existing home, according to recent reports from the California Assn. of Realtors. In Los Angeles County, fewer than 40% of consumers can afford a home.
Builders, however, are putting up ever more expensive homes, out of reach of most buyers. Indeed, the median price of a new Orange County home sold in August was $400,250–up 22% from a year earlier. Existing houses jumped more than 13% to $295,000 and existing condos rose more than 11% to $181,250.”
2001 – We need to remember that a recession is on us at this point. The stock market gets hammered. Interestingly enough we have people looking at housing to dig us out of the economic malaise.
January 8, 2001 (BBC News)
Housing market – boom or bust?
“With conflicting signs all around, Dharshini David examines what really happened in the UK housing market over the past year.
Are we set for a year of rising prices – or have the good times finally come to an end?”
June 11, 2001 (Newsweek)
Sold! Can a hot housing market save the economy from the deep freeze?
“Carl Statham isn’t sticking to the script. In a sputtering economy, consumers are supposed to rein in their spending, particularly on big-ticket items. Yet even with the faltering stock market and headlines about mass layoffs, Statham and his wife, Gloria, recently moved into a new $1 million home near Chicago–complete with an indoor driving range and putting green to lower his 12 handicap. It’s not that the Stathams are immune from the ups and downs of the economy. They own an auto dealership, and sales have softened as shoppers downshift to buying cars based more on need than want. But as Statham lines up a practice drive in his 6,000-square-foot home, he seems confident that his new house is a better bet than Tiger Woods’s sinking a six-inch putt. “A home is the safest investment to make right now,” he says.”
November 7, 2001 (Contra Costa Times)
Uncertainty Hits California’s Housing Market.
“Patience has always been a virtue when looking to buy into the Bay Area’s real estate market. For Bob and Lori Edwards, however, patience became a necessity as they were forced to deal with the uncertain and unexplored — the post-Sept. 11 housing market.
The Edwards began their house hunt in Concord again in early September after an earlier deal fell through. They were willing to spend around $350,000.
There was only one problem. It appeared no one wanted their money.
“We found nothing on the market,” Lori Edwards said of home listings right after the tragedy. “It was like everything went on hold right after Sept. 11.”
2002 – Bubble talk is still on the table. People associate the housing market with the economy.
February 13, 2002 (San Diego Tribune)
Housing market propels economy, S.D. analyst says
“The stock market slaughter wiped out $4 trillion of wealth between 2000 and mid-2001, says [Todd Buchholz]. But over the past three years, home values have gone up 5 percent annually. That has added $2 trillion in wealth that has helped offset the stock market’s mayhem.
Massive mortgage refinancing last year (55.7 percent of mortgage originations) dropped monthly payments sharply. “For each point that interest rates fell, the average homeowner has saved $150 to $200 per month,” says Buchholz.
The value of U.S. housing jumped from $8.8 trillion in 1992 to $14 trillion last year, says Buchholz. Lower-priced homes appreciate more than higher-priced ones, he says.”
July 24, 2002 (Fox News)
Housing Market Roundtable
“NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: With stocks tanking, everybody wants to know what’s going to be the next bubble to burst? Could it be the housing market? Who better to ask than the heads of the top homebuilders in the nation. From Dallas, Larry Hirsch, the CEO of Centex Corporation; Donald Tomnitz, the CEO of DR Horton; and from Miami, Stuart Miller, the CEO of Lennar. Gentleman, welcome to all of you.”
November 24, 2002 (Boston Globe)
IS HOUSING MARKET A BUBBLE THAT’S WAITING TO BURST?
“Q. As a renter in Boston for the past five years, I have kept my eye on the real estate market, trying to figure out when to jump in without drowning. I have been saving actively, and at this point the down payment is no longer a problem.
I have been told not to try to time the market, but the speed with which home prices are accelerating is a huge concern. To try to get more house for my money, I have been looking at multifamily homes, but even there, the trend is scary for a first-time.”
2003 – Greenspan says housing likely to cool even though his dropping of rates spurs the buying frenzy. Warnings of a crash enter the headlines but not on mainstream outlets like ABC or CBS.
March 5, 2003 (Toronto Star)
U.S. housing market likely to cool, Greenspan cautions ; ‘Home prices could recede,’ top banker warns Sharp decline ‘seems most unlikely,’ he adds
“U.S. Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan said yesterday that the high-flying U.S. housing market is likely to lose a bit of altitude this year. That could slow consumer spending, one of the American economy’s few bright spots, he cautioned.
“The frenetic pace of home equity extraction last year is likely to appreciably simmer down in 2003, possibly notably lessening support to household purchases of goods and services,” Greenspan said in a speech delivered via a satellite video link to the Independent Community Bankers of America meeting in Orlando, Fla.
U.S. Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, shown here testifying on Capitol Hill last month, sparked criticism from builders yesterday by warning house prices could “recede.”
July 23, 2003 (L.A. Times)
Hot Housing Market Isn’t Cooling Off; The median sale price of a Ventura County home reached $396,000 in June, up 18.2% from a year ago and second- highest in the region.
“Depending on the sales category, median prices increased by $56,000 to $108,000 in the year-to-year period. Resale home prices rose 16.8%, to a median of $410,000, while new home prices increased 24.2%, to $555,000, according to DataQuick. Condominium prices for resale increased 24.3%, to $286,000.
Oxnard experienced sales increases from 19.3% to nearly 37% in June, depending on the ZIP Code. Median prices rose 14.3%, to $392,000, in the 93035 ZIP Code and 39%, to $365,000, in 93030. The 93010 ZIP Code in Camarillo saw 31.4% more sales last month — 92 compared with 70 in 2002 — while median prices climbed 9.6%, to $400,000.”
November 5, 2003 (The Independent)
Vincent Cable: Be warned – the housing market is about to crash
“Little has been learned. Lemming-like behaviour by banks is familiar to students of past debt crises.
As the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee meets, almost certainly to raise interest rates, there is growing alarm in government about an impending crash in house prices. Higher interest rates and falling house prices could trigger a bloody end to economic growth driven largely by unsustainable consumer debt tenuously secured against nothing more substantial than asset inflation.
As the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee meets, almost certainly to raise interest rates, there is growing alarm in government about an impending crash in house prices. Higher interest rates and falling house prices could trigger a bloody end to economic growth driven largely by unsustainable consumer debt tenuously secured against nothing more substantial than asset inflation.”
2004 – C.A.R. misses bubble peak for California housing. Tons of people start getting jobs in real estate as an easy meal ticket. Housing bubble talk is a myth.
February 12, 2004 (The Washington Post)
In Hot Housing Market, a Booming Job Shelter; Real Estate Beckons As Ranks of Agents Expand in County
“It was the first tour of the day for [Hollie Pakulla], an agent for two years in the Columbia office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. She answered questions as the husband and his pregnant wife enthused about the wet bar, wood floors and $1,000 special- order chrome bathroom faucets.
Many were people like Pakulla, who in 2001 left a 13-year career as a Prince George’s County firefighter and spent about $1,500 to take classes and tests to become an agent. She was following in the footsteps of her mother, father, brothers and sister. Her first listing hit the market that fall. She has since sold 76 houses for about $13.5 million and was last year named rookie agent of the year by the Maryland Association of Realtors.
Pakulla has to brace home buyers for the county’s soaring prices, some of the highest in Maryland. Howard’s reputation for good schools and a strong quality of life continues to lure new residents while a local housing shortage drives costs up.”
July 09, 2004 (The Record)
California Realtors group’s economist says state’s housing market has peaked.
“The hot California housing market has hit its peak and is going to start cooling off, because the price growth of the past two years is too strong to sustain, the chief economist for the state Realtors group said Thursday.
You can’t maintain annual price inflation that has ranged in some areas between 25 percent and 40 percent, the California Association of Realtors’ Leslie Appleton-Young said at what has become an annual luncheon presentation to members of the Central Valley Association of Realtors. (The state median sales price — half sold for more, half for less — was $465,160 in May, up 26.5 percent from May 2003.)”
December 30, 2004 (The Street)
Reasons the Housing Bubble’s Still Bunk
“Speculation that there might be a bubble in the housing market appears wrongheaded. While it certainly is true that housing market activity and home prices are at elevated levels, there is little basis for believing that housing prices suddenly will ratchet downward.
The elements of a bubblelike condition simply do not exist, particularly in light of the low level of housing inventories relative to sales. Moreover, the laborious nature of real estate transactions is so great and the nature of home ownership is such that liquidations are extremely unlikely to occur en masse.”
2005 – This is where an interesting shift occurs. As you noticed in the last articles, there were a few who called it right. There economic analysis was right. Yet by 2005 the vast majority assumed housing was at a new permanent high. Greenspan won’t target housing market although he created bubble in first place with low rates.
February 23, 2005 (Dallas Morning News)
Foundation strong for housing market.
“Demographic pressures are so strong that the U.S. housing market will continue to grow even if interest rates rise, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors predicted Tuesday.
David Lereah told a meeting in Dallas that the current housing boom is likely to last through the decade.
“The real estate market is still booming all across the U.S.,” Mr. Lereah said. “You can’t apply conventional wisdom to the real estate markets anymore.
“Interest rates going up don’t necessarily mean real estate will go down.”
July 22, 2005 (L.A. Times)
Fed Won’t Target Housing Market
“The revelation came as Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan on Thursday said the cooling of home prices in some regions could have a negative effect on consumer spending, both locally and nationally.
Greenspan also reiterated his view that economic growth is solid, inflation is well-contained and the Fed intends to continue raising interest rates to keep inflation at bay.
The minutes of the last Fed rate-setting meeting indicated that the Fed believes that targeting any asset bubbles, such as in housing, would be counterproductive.”
December 7, 2005 (USA Today)
Sustained decline forecast in U.S. housing market
“The U.S. housing industry is in for a sustained decline, though signs of a cool-down have been slower to emerge than previously expected, according to the quarterly UCLA Anderson Forecast released Wednesday.
The widely respected forecasting center at UCLA said rising interest rates, slowing population growth, overbuilding and the fact that prices had reached bubble-like heights in some hot areas will drive the decline. Housing, which had been a big driver of growth, is contributing little to the economic expansion at present, the forecast said.”
2006 – Doubts creep into the market. Ironically, the financial press like MarketWatch actually support a stronger housing market. Experts headlines miss housing market completely.
February 4, 2006 (BBC News)
Optimism in housing market soars
“Confidence in the Scottish housing market is booming, according to a new economic study.
Experts at the Clydesdale Bank said optimism was at its highest level since their research began in 2001.
Latest figures showed almost 75% of people in Scotland expected to see property prices rise this year.
At the same time, the survey showed the prospect of higher council tax bills was deterring many first-time buyers from purchasing.”
August 10, 2006 (Seattle PI)
Housing market starting to wear thin
“The “For Sale” signs are staying out longer. House prices are easing as sellers try to lure in buyers.
The big question now: Will the nation’s five-year housing boom turn into a devastating bust that could derail the overall economy?
“We recognize the risk … and we are watching it very carefully,” Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress recently.
The Fed’s interest-rate increases, which have helped push mortgage rates to the highest levels in more than four years, are putting a damper on housing.”
December 21, 2006 (MarketWatch)
Shelter in a storm: Housing market got buffeted in 2006, expected to stabilize in 2007
“For many residential real-estate markets in the U.S., this year started with an advantage to sellers and ended with buyers holding the upper hand. But, unlike some people had expected, the switch didn’t follow the deafening “pop” of a massive real estate bubble.
That spells good news for both buyers and sellers in 2007, as markets return to balance, prices moderate and, if interest rates remain subdued, sales begin to edge higher.
Many markets saw slower home-price increases and a build-up of inventory in 2006, much to the dismay of optimistic sellers. And while speculators — investors who many argue are partially responsible for the massive housing boom — tried to exit the market, buyers began waiting out the correction to get the best prices, causing a drop in home sales.
In many areas, however, the correction wasn’t as harsh as some had feared. In fact, the year as a whole might even have been described as “healthy” if the country’s perspective hadn’t been skewed by the boom of the past few years, said John McIlwain, senior fellow for housing at the Urban Land Institute. The market is still “well within long-term norms,” he said.
“I think the story of the year is the bubble that wasn’t,” McIlwain said. “Instead of a bubble busting, so far it has been a healthy correction.”
2007 – Cracks in the damn. Yet the real estate industry at this point believes in a new permanent high. This is like the Dow 30,000 book. Robust housing market is only the last drink before the lights get turned on and end the party.
February 15, 2007 (Boston Globe)
Prediction: “robust” spring housing market
The planets are in alignment for a “robust” spring housing market as local consumers could experience the best buyers market in more than a decade, a Boston mortgage company said today.
Recent sales have been slumping; prices have gone sideways and down, but Summit Mortgage LLC sees a bright silver lining ahead.
“With reduced home values, historically low interest rates, and pent-up consumer demand, I think the spring real estate market will be a home run,” Richard S. Fedele, Summit’s chief executive, said in a statement. “We’re now seeing more affordability in the housing market than we’ve seen in years.”
May 25, 2007 (Forbes)
Housing Market Decline Eases
“The U.S. housing market may not be in a rebound yet, but the hemorrhaging seems to have eased. Existing home sales slid 2.6%, to the slowest pace in four years, real estate agents said on Friday. But the rate of decline is slowing and there are some signs that a bottom is near.
At the current rate the seasonally adjusted annual rate is 5.99 million units said the National Association of Realtors on Friday, slightly below analysts’ expectations of 6.13 million homes. The larger-than-expected drop in existing home sales, which represents 85% of the entire housing market, disappointed the Street but it was a smaller decline than the 8.4% plunge recorded in March.”
November 14, 2007 (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Housing market at the bottom, realtors say
“The market for existing homes is “hitting the low right now” and heading for a “modest recovery” next year, the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors said at the group’s annual convention here Tuesday.
Existing home sales will be “much softer” this quarter compared with the same period last year, the economist, Lawrence Yun, said at a news conference. He said that for all of 2007, sales nationwide would fall to 5.67 million, compared to 6.48 million in 2006.
NAR expects the national median price of existing homes to decline 1.7 percent to $218,200 for this year, and hold steady at about that level in 2008.
The number of sales will rise to 5.69 million next year, Yun said. But the housing recovery will be very uneven, with some markets bouncing back more quickly than others, Yun predicted.”
2008 – Market falls hard. Implosions ripple through the industry. It becomes apparent that housing was the economy for the past decade. That early headline in the decade called it stating that housing would pull us out of the 2001 recession. NAR starts begging for money for housing market.
February 12, 2008 (Forbes)
Foreclosures hurt housing market further
“A growing share of home sales are from foreclosures, especially in states hardest hit by the housing bust. In some parts of California lately, nearly 50 percent of home sales come from foreclosed houses.
The trend, which is putting additional downward pressure on home prices, is most notable there and in Nevada, Colorado, Tennessee and Michigan, but is also evident in Ohio, Georgia, Florida and Arizona, according to an Associated Press comparison of 2007 sales and foreclosure data. In Nevada, for example, 17.5 percent of home sales were from foreclosures, more than quadruple the number in 2006.”
July 8, 2008 (CBS News)
Stocks Down Again On More Evidence Of Weak Housing Market
“U.S. stocks on Tuesday twisted lower in indecisive trade as comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered only some respite from credit-market jitters and as an index offered further evidence of a weakened housing market.
“Unless and until the economic clouds part, we’ll likely see the housing market continue to struggle,” Mike Larson, analyst at Weiss Research, said of the National Association of Realtors’ measure of pending home sales, which fell 4.7% in May. .
Down at the start, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tossed its losses aside within the first 10 minutes of trading, but struggled to retain its gains, recently falling 39.41 points to 11,192.55.”
November 7, 2008 (TIME)
How to Revive the Housing Market: A Proposal from Realtors
“The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is lobbying for the U.S. government to artificially lower mortgage rates by purchasing loan points for home buyers. They say the program would cost $100 billion, and could raise home prices as much as 4% nationwide. Anyone buying a house for primary residence would be eligible for the mortgage-rate buydown, which would lower a purchaser’s loan rate 1% for the life of the loan. They say the incentive should be made available for the next 12 months. “The sentiment in Washington is that we need to get the housing market moving to get the economy back on track,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the association. “We need to strike while the iron is hot.”
2009 – All of sudden all is well even though American households have lost $12.2 trillion. The real estate industry has seemed to forget the rollercoaster of a decade. Data is mixed in the headlines.
January 27, 2009 (The Washington Post)
Existing-Home Sales Spike As Bargains Glut Market
“Homes sales surged unexpectedly last month, fueled by record-setting price declines in one of the weakest housing markets in 20 years.
Bargain hunters are making their way through the backlog of homes, but the market remains weak, analysts said. The recession is weighing on potential buyers, making a market recovery — or even stabilization — unlikely soon, the analysts said.
Existing-home sales climbed 6.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.74 million in December, according to the National Association of Realtors. That was better than analysts expected. Sales fell 3.5 percent compared with December 2007.”
July 23, 2009 (Mercury News)
Data show housing market starting to recover
“The U.S. housing market has started to recover from the most far-reaching crisis since the Great Depression, data released Thursday show.
Sales of previously occupied homes rose for the third month in a row in June, the National Association of Realtors reported. That hasn’t happened since early 2004, during the boom.
“The turnaround in the housing market appears finally to be here and indeed may be gaining some speed,” wrote Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors Inc.”
September 16, 2009 (ABC News)
Homeowners Struggle as Housing Market Slowly Recovers
“When real estate broker Sherri McBroom drove through a Phoenix suburb back in January, it was a tour of despair. There were more than 130 homes for sale in one neighborhood alone.
Today the story is completely different. While nationwide home sales jumped 16.7 percent in the first half of 2009, the turnaround in the same suburb is even more stunning — 150 homes have been sold since May, thanks to low prices, low interest rates and tax breaks for first-time buyers.
“Prices were so low in the valley, I expected the buyers to come out. I didn’t expect there to be a bidding war. I didn’t expect there to be 20 offers on every home,” McBroom says.”
And there you have it. Towards the end bigger mainstream media outlets started reporting on the massive bust but this was too little too late. It is now at a point of spectator sport journalism. The time for action was early on. And as it turns out, many people saw this coming even in the journalism community. Yet the majority decided to ignore these warnings and learned to love the bubble. Bernard Madoff was still a genius hedge fund manager, Lehman Brothers was still ripping it up on Wall Street, and IndyMac was just another lovable bank in California.
What a decade it has been for housing.
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