Can Seattle Home Prices Drop Another 22% was a question raised by many here in the Seattle Area, after Zero Hedge posted the Goldman Sachs forecast for Major Cities showing Seattle at a 22% drop by year end 2012. After calling for modest to almost no declines in several major cities, Goldman predicted a 22% drop for Seattle with the 2nd highest drop being only 12% in Portland, and even a 7% gain for Cleveland Ohio and a 5% gain for San Diego. That would put Seattle at minus 27% compared to San Diego for the same period.
You can pick up Goldman’s rationale or lack thereof in that first link, we’ll stick to how likely it is that Seattle could drop “another” 22%. First let’s take a look at where a drop of that size would takes us, in the graph below.
Important to note that I made a slight modification of the raw data for the graph above to account for modest home size variances, equalizing the data as to size of home or price per square foot. The closest rounding point was a median sized home of 2,000 sf. The data is in thousands, so top left in January of 2007 would be $430,000 median home price for a 2,000 sf home and bottom left would be $253,000 for a 2,000 sf home in January of 2001.
I posted a full chart of all of the raw data for those who want to create their own charts and modifications showing actual median home prices for the years in the graph above, median square footage of homes sold in each 30 day period and the # of homes sold. This is for Single Family Homes vs. Condos and King County vs. Seattle Proper.
Back to the graph above in this post. The top line is Seattle Area Peak in 2007. The turquoise and purple lines are “where we are” in 2009 and 2010 without significant difference except for seasonal variances in that 18 month period. I ended these graphs and the data at April 30 2010 due to the switch out of mls systems locally, but am seeing reports that May came in above April at $379,000. So the raw data suggests there is the normal seasonal bump up in May, as additionally influenced by the final tax credit closings which will continue until after June closings, and possibly slightly beyond.
The red line is the hypothetical Goldman Sachs prediction scaled against 2009 data at 22% below in each consecutive month.
Before moving to conclusions, we need to visit the volume stats (graph below). I have been tracking volume for years in addition to price per square foot, as volume signals recovery or not more so than home prices alone.
Analysis is dependent on rationale of which data to apply, and for my purposes I have been using 2001 and 2002 as “Base Points” for two reasons:
1) 2001 is the earliest I will go when tracking home price and volume data, as Credit Scoring as the primary focus of lending pre-approval guidelines and risk-based pricing, was not a factor in the 90’s. Keeping apples to apples as to the number of people who can qualify to purchase a home, 2001 is a good start point.
2) 2003…toward the end of 2003…was the beginning of ZERO down/sub-prime lending standards. So all years from 2003 through mid 2007 will include an extra bump up as to volume and price created by that loosest of lending standards.
For both of the reasons noted above, it has been my long standing premise that volume of homes sold should be and can be expected to return to 2001 and 2002 levels as to number of homes sold.
One caveat: The number of condos built between 2001 and present is beyond proportional. Those additional “residences” in the form of condos and lofts in the Seattle Area will rob volume from the single family stats in some, and many, areas.
Note: In the second graph above, the volume of homes sold in October of 2009 (green line) exceeded the number of homes sold in October of 2001 (black line). This may not seem like something to view as a positive sign. But given the tremendous drop in volume as noted in January and February of 2009 to unprecedentedly low levels, surpassing 2001 volume stats by October of that same year was HUGE. Of course these numbers at both ends are influenced by the short breaks in the tax credit for home buyers in both January of 2009 and October of 2009…but still a significant signal reflecting that volume has the opportunity to recover to 2001 levels. NOT to 2007 levels! Volume cannot and will not recover to 2007, nor do I expect prices to do so until 2018 at the earliest.
Those who are waiting for a return to 2007 as to price and/or volume would likely have better luck betting on your favorite horse.
So, just how low will Seattle Area Home Prices go? Well first off let’s acknowledge that Seattle Area Home Prices WILL go DOWN. That seems obvious to me from the RAW DATA, but amazingly I still see many people questioning whether or not the market will go down at all from here. Hard to believe, but yes, some think the current level of $379,000 median home price is going to go up and not “EVER” down from there. One would think the credo of “home prices will never go down” was dismissed along with The Easter Bunny…but no. Some are still looking for a V-Shaped or U-Shaped “Recovery”. Sad but true.
A- Home prices will most assuredly drop by 4.3% in the very near future and likely by 4th Quarter 2010. (See blue square in the RAW DATA link above.) That is where home prices were in March of 2009 before the tax credit was renewed. So seems obvious without the credit, that is where prices will go back to…and likely lower than that without a new tax credit to prop up prices from that point forward.
B- The Tax Credit was meant to stop the downward spiral and eradicate the portion of loss created by momentum and NOT the portion of downward spiral created by fundamental economic problems. It was to eliminate the Fear Factor and the over-correction. Not the market’s legitimate decline point. Consequently the “safety net” being removed is going to create an additional drop of at least 5% in addition to the 4.3% drop noted above, which would take us to a drop of 9.3%.
C- Goldman Sachs is incorrect in its analysis of a 22% drop, because they do not apply the above A and B factors to all Major Cities. So their basic rationale is not credible, nor the number that emanated from that incorrect rationale.
D- Near the end of the time frame for the tax credit, home buyers were not as likely to enter into contracts with short sales and to some extent even bank-owned properties, for fear they would not close on time. Consequently, the median home prices were overly weighted to the high end of my bottom call. The mix of property from here through year end is going to push more toward the 37% under peak of that same bottom call vs the 20% side of the equation, with more “distressed” property in the mix. Not because of increased foreclosures, but because of more people being willing to buy them without a drop-dead-must-close date via the tax credit. It’s really just common sense, and pretty much a given.
Look for a 9.3% drop at some given point between now and the end of 2011. That would be any month in that period with a median home price of $343,753 or thereabouts.
As to 2012??? I expect a significant impact on price, with further declines, stemming from continued layoffs between now and the end of 2012 on a fairly large scale. But this last prediction borders on “the crystal ball method”. So let’s end with a 9.3% drop from $379,000 median King County home price by year end 2011, with an added caution that significant improvement to 2007 price levels will not likely happen before 2018.
In other words…”EXPECT the worst; HOPE for better than that.”
(required disclosure – Market Observations and all stats in this post and the graphs herein are the opinion and “work” of ARDELL DellaLoggia and not Compiled, Verified or Posted by The Northwest Multiple Listing Service.