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Forecasting the Future of Rental Housing and Home Valuations

Crowded trades end badly, no matter how rosy the projections
Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 10:33 AM
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Executive Summary

  • Why the momentum for household formation is still downwards, despite the gains in recent years
  • Why "rental price fatigue" is putting today's increasingly rosy housing valuations at jeopardy
  • Why the fiscal and monetary stimulus that has boosted the housing market in recent years cannot continue further
  • How housing may turn from the “can’t lose” investment into an anchor of debt and a “now I can’t move to a better job” debacle

If you have not yet read Real Estate: Is the Bottom In, or Is This a Head-Fake?, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

In Part I, we reviewed the fundamentals that have been pushing housing prices higher in 2012. Many of these forces are the result of explicit real estate-supportive Federal and Federal Reserve policies, while others, such as restricting the number of defaulted properties on the market, are implicit policies of the financial cartel that has much to gain from a recovery in housing.

What, if anything, could derail this manufactured housing recovery?

Before we get to specifics, we should start by discussing unintended consequences. What happens when politically expedient policies are imposed with a simplistic goal?

Exhibit #1 is the Federal Reserve policy of lowering interest rates and increasing liquidity to boost “risk assets” such as stocks. This had the unintended consequence of inflating a stock bubble that burst with painful consequences in 2000-02.

Like all central-planning agencies, the Fed followed this policy error by doing more of what had failed: It lowered rates even more, enabling an unprecedented bubble in housing, which subsequently burst in 2007-08 with even more devastating consequences, as that implosion nearly took down the global financial system.

With FHA having replaced the bankrupt Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac agencies as the mortgage-guarantor of last resort, the Federal government has also doubled down on the failed subsidies that enabled the housing bubble.

What are the unintended consequences of pushing investors into the “crowded trade” of rental housing?  If we answer this, we will be closer to understanding whether housing has bottomed or not.

Let’s start by reviewing the fundamentals of supply and demand that influence housing and rentals.

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