Housing In Deepest Decline Since The Great Depression

Rapid Deterioration

Housing in deepest decline since the Great Depression, economist says

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) — Housing is in its “deepest, most rapid downswing since the Great Depression,” the chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders said Tuesday, and the downward momentum on housing prices appears to be accelerating.
The NAHB’s latest forecast calls for new-home sales to drop 22% this year, bringing sales 55% under the peak reached in late 2005. Housing starts are predicted to tumble 31% in 2008, putting starts 60% off their high of three years ago.
“More and more of the country is now involved in the contraction, where six months ago it was not as widespread,” said David Seiders, the NAHB’s chief economist, on a conference call with reporters. “Housing is in a major contraction mode and will be another major, heavy weight on the economy in the first quarter.”
A home-sales measure tracked by the association that includes data on cancellations from 30 large U.S. builders that account for one-quarter of all sales shows sales down 65% from their peak in 2005, Seiders said. Government measures of home sales do not include numbers from contracts that were signed but buyers later backed out.
Vacant homes for sale in the U.S. now number about 2 million, Seiders said, an increase of 800,000 from 2005. That inventory overhang is bedeviling builders, who have been forced to cut prices and write down the value of their holdings.
Read more on the builders’ plight. “Weak demand and oversupply naturally put downward pressure on prices,” Seiders said.
Citing the Case-Shiller index, Seiders noted that home prices nationally have fallen nearly 10% from their peak in early 2006 and that prices were declining at a 19% annual rate in the fourth quarter. “The downward momentum was building at the end of the year,” he said. Read the latest Case-Shiller numbers.
Home sales may bottom out later this year, Seiders predicted, but housing starts are not likely to rebound until 2009. Housing, which took 1.25 percentage points off GDP in the fourth quarter, looks like it will continue to be a major drag on gross domestic product at least through the end of 2008, he said. End of Story

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