Tight inventories, increasing demand, prices up, seller’s market. Don’t believe the scaremongering headlines you’ve seen in the real estate press lately. If you spend five minutes reading the articles that underlie a headline like “Southern California home sales crash, a warning sign to the nation,” you’ll soon see that the writers can’t support their hyperbole.
Did a little deeper and you’ll find that respected sources say that the LA market is 500,000 housing units short of what is needed, and that this is concentrated in so called “affordable” homes and apartments for rent or purchase. Of course, nobody has figured out how to create more land to build these sorely needed units. The available land is in the Inland Empire, and that is where affordable housing is being built. As fast as it is built, LA and OC residents are moving out to buy it.
Within LA County, the only way to add units is to tear down and increase density. This only happens at a snail’s pace due to limited properties being offered for sale, and layer upon layer of city, county, regional, and state hurdles to jump through after the property is acquired.
Will the exodus of residents heading to the IE and beyond (Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas) ever actually impact the housing prices in LA? Possibly, but so far, the lure of weather, entertainment, sports teams, and high paying jobs is keeping folks in LA. You can move to Riverside and get a lot of house for the money, but the IE is becoming the distribution capital of the US, and warehouses don’t use much labor or pay much for the labor they do use. Meanwhile, LA has become a huge draw for the wealthy and well paid. The entertainment, high tech, health care, and finance sectors are drawing folks from Northern California, Seattle, Hong Kong, China, Korea, India, and Europe. They are arriving with cash and are competing for available properties.
Here is one caveat. The number of new arrivals from China has dropped off. This may be due to a slightly softer Chinese economy, the tariff situation, or other issues. But word on the street says there is reduced competition in some LA markets that seems to be related to fewer mainland Chinese vying for scarce inventory.
Are Prices Going Down in LA County?
What about the other headlines declaring that prices are easing, homes are staying on the market longer, not as many offers, more sellers cutting prices. Once again you need to dig. All four of these markers have been so high for so long that they had to come down. The amounts they are coming down is a percent or two. People are cutting the asking prices from the ridiculous to something just less ridiculous.
Where are we in the bubble? We are just now hitting prices from the 2006 highs in the “affordable” neighborhoods These are actual, not inflation adjusted prices. Some are still slightly below. Based on historical patterns we could have 40% upside left before a bubble could be declared. But if prices only continued to track inflation for the next several years, it is likely we would see 3% average increases year after year.
What About a Recession?
What about a recession? Everyone agrees that there will be a recession at some point. In order for the housing market in LA to go lower, you need more inventory. It will not come from new units. It can only come from people moving away from the county, people doubling up, or boomers finally moving to retirement villas. If we endure a normal two quarter recession, it seems unlikely that there will be any impact on LA real estate.
What about mortgage interest rates? As long as we stay under 6% or so, there is likely to be enough elasticity in the market to absorb the hit. If we have several factors impacting all at once, then we could see a drop in prices.
For instance, imagine that the World has a year-long recession, drying up money from Asia. Maybe the US has a six-month recession, driving up the unemployment numbers to 6%. The final leg in the stool could be interest rates at 7%. In this case, you are likely to see the historical 30% drop in home prices for a year, followed by seven more years of prices going up.
When Should I Sell? When Should I Buy?
When is the perfect time to sell your home? When is the perfect market to buy a new or upgraded home? It is not a good idea to try and time the market. The best thing you can do is make your decisions based on your needs. Do you need to sell your home? Call Whit Prouty and discuss current market prices. Do you need to buy a different place to handle a growing household, or just because you’d like a nicer home or a better neighborhood? Call Whit today and lay out your hopes and dreams. No better time to start looking than right now.