A Lot Worse Before It Gets BetterA press release from Bruce Norris. "California's real estate downturn will be deep and long lasting, with home prices falling 15 to 30% during the next 36 to 42 months, according to a real estate expert. Bruce Norris, who correctly forecast both the real estate boom that began in 1997 and the subsequent doubling of home prices, said the downturn will reflect a perfect storm that includes record numbers of foreclosures, a sharp decline in migration to California, substantial increases in unsold inventory, and, of course, falling prices."
"'We are in for a very rough ride in California's real estate market, which is likely to be far more severe than analysts, state officials and real estate industry associations have acknowledged,' Norris said, adding, 'Foreclosures alone are likely to be more numerous than anything we've ever experienced, with bank repossessions ultimately accounting for as high or as many as 25-30 percent of all homes sold during the next three years.'"
"Norris said prudent investors need to arm themselves with the facts and come to terms with the fact that analysts, state officials and the California Association of Realtors are either not being frank about the severity of the coming crisis or they simply aren't looking at the right categories of statistics."
"But while Norris' outlook is gloomier than most observers for the short term, he expects California real estate prices to again rebound in 2011 as foreclosures decrease, the number of homes for sale declines to a manageable level and as California again experiences a net increase in population migration from other states."
"'There is light at the end of the tunnel,' Norris said, 'but we have to be very careful in this market environment. Investors need to know that marginal deals are no longer acceptable. The market will no longer cover their investment mistakes. If they don't know what they're doing, they need to stay out of the market until conditions change.'"
"The trouble with the analysis given by most real estate observers is that it's based on flawed assumptions, including the widespread belief that interest rate adjustments can somehow hold back the looming real estate crisis."
"'Interest rates alone do not determine the direction of prices,' Norris said. 'Look what happened the last time we had a real estate downturn in California. Interest rates were actually lower in lower in 1997 than they were in 1990. Yet prices declined by as much as 35 percent in some areas.'"
"The most reliable indicator of a downturn in California is low affordability. Historic affordability lows signaled the previous two real estate recessions and prevented inventory from selling quickly."
"'We still have strong employment and historically low interest rates,' Norris said, 'yet we continue to see the inventory of homes soar, even as builders lower prices and give huge sales incentives. This change in the market caught economists off guard because they said that without an increase in unemployment, you can't have a real estate downturn. That wasn't true!'"
"Centex Corp., Hovnanian Enterprises, Pulte Homes, Lennar and D.R. Horton together have written off more than a half-billion dollars worth of land option agreements during the past year, Norris said, citing published reports. 'If prices were heading upward and if demand for housing was strong, they wouldn't be walking away from these land option agreements,' he said."
"'Many economists and real estate observers and even government officials continue to offer rosy assessments because they are under political pressure to say nothing or because they are simply looking at the wrong statistics. Trouble is, there are many investors, including builders, who have been misled by their commentary,' said Norris."
"Various organizations are deliberately misleading investors and the general public, Norris said, adding that the National Association of Realtors (NAR) launched a $40 million ad camping in January of this year in which they told buyers that now is the perfect time to buy a home."
"Even more recently, Jeff Davi, commissioner of the California Department of Real Estate, is quoted in this month's issue of California Real Estate Magazine saying that California continues to need another 250,000 single and multifamily housing units to be built each year."
"'If this was truly the case,' Norris asked, 'why are we seeing vacant properties, increasing housing inventory and builders walking away from millions of dollars in land options? The reality is that the real estate market in California is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.'"
"The good news is that the market should turn upward again in 2011. By then, Norris said, prices will be low enough to lure many people back into California again, lenders will have again adjusted their lending guidelines and investors will again re-enter the market, sensing bargains and opportunities for additional profits and equity growth in the years ahead."