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Fairbanks, AK 99701
907-374-4663
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Real Estate News

Latest Realty News from NAR

How Do Housing Market Conditions Compare in 2004 and 2018?

With interest rates rising and house price appreciation slowing down or depreciating in some metro areas, it is worth recalling the conditions that prevailed prior to the housing market’s downturn in 2005 and to compare these with current market conditions. The table below compares key indicators on the housing market, employment, and household credit in 2004 and 2018. The comparison indicates that the housing market is less likely to suffer the huge price decline that prevailed from 2005 through 2012.

What are the key takeaways from these indicators?

First, housing supply is tighter. Supply conditions are tighter today than they were in 2004. In January 2004, there were 1.9 million housing units under construction, or 700 thousand more housing starts compared to August 2018. With more new construction, there were 2.15 million existing homes available for sale at the end January 2004 compared to only 1.88 as of August 2018. The inventory was sufficient to fill the demand for approximately four months in both 2001 and 2018, but the inventory of homes for sale in 2001 started to rise steeply so that by April 2008, there was enough inventory to meet 11 months of demand. With more new construction at that time, the rental vacancy rate was 10.4 percent in the first quarter of 2004 compared to 6.8 percent in the second quarter of 2018.

Second, households were more indebted and credit quality was lower, making them more vulnerable to rising interest rates and depreciating home prices.  Mortgage debt accounted for 81 percent of disposable income in the first quarter of 2004 compared to only 66 percent in 2018. As a percent of gross domestic product, the mortgage debt of households and non-profit organizations was equivalent to 59 percent of gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2004, which is higher than the 50 percent figure in the second quarter of 2018. In January 2004, 90 percent of deposits was lent out as commercial loans, compared to only 77 percent as of September 2018.  The lower level of debt means that any increase in payment defaults in 2018 will not be amplified as much throughout the financial system and the economy than what did occur during the housing and financial market meltdown in 2008-2010.

During the housing market crash and financial meltdown that started to unravel in 2005, the size of adjustable rate mortgages, the poorer quality of credit, and the extraction of homeowners’ equity created a toxic brew that spurred a vicious cycle of falling prices, more foreclosures, and further price declines that lasted until January 2012 (the median price of existing homes sold fell to a low of $154,600 in January 2012 from a peak of $230,400 in July 2006, a 33 percent drop). Although the foreclosure inventory in the first quarter of 2004 is about the same level as in the second quarter of 2018, the level of mortgages in the foreclosure inventory rose to approximately two million mortgages in the foreclosure inventory during each quarter from 2009 through 2011. As of the second quarter of 2018, the mortgages in the foreclosure process amount to 402,540.

Adjustable rate mortgages accounted for nearly 30 percent of loan applications in January 2004. Borrowers thought or were made to believe that they could refinance these ARMs under the expectation of rising home prices, but the hoped-for price appreciation did not materialize, leading to a wave of defaults and foreclosures as mortgage rates started rising and home prices started falling instead. In September 2018, ARMs accounted for only seven percent of loan applications. The low share of ARMS is in part due to the low interest rate environment since 2009 under a relaxed monetary policy to spur and sustain the economic recovery.

Credit availability has tightened in the aftermath of the 2008-2010 housing recession, with credit mainly accessed by those with higher credit scores. Mortgage originations to borrowers with less than 620 FICO scores has shrunk from $79.3 billion in the first quarter of 2004 to $16.1 billion in the second quarter of 2018.  Today, there are 1.1 million fewer households with home equity revolving accounts. The higher quality of credit—although at the expense of tighter credit conditions—makes it less likely for a wave of foreclosures to occur in 2018 in the same magnitude as in 2004 that would then lead to the steep price depreciation that occurred during 2005 through 2012.

Third, the economy is stronger now than it is in the 2004 when interest rates started rising and home prices started falling as foreclosures rose. The unemployment rate stood at 3.7 percent in August 2018, the lowest since 1969 when the unemployment rate averaged 3.5 percent. The housing market’s downturn and credit freeze brought down the economy in the Great Recession, so with the less likelihood of a severe housing market downturn and financial crash, the economy is at a healthier footing in 2018 than in 2004.

Given the current economic, housing market, and credit conditions, it seems unlikely that prices will fall as steeply as they did during 2005 through 2012. To date, median sales price of existing homes sold has increased on a year-over-year basis for 79 consecutive months since March 2012.  However, prices are appreciating at a slower pace compared to past months because  the rising interest rates are making homes less affordable given the current level of home prices. As of September 2018, existing homes typically sold at $258,100 in September 2018, a 4.2 percent gain from one year ago. Most metro areas continue to experience price appreciations, although at a more subdued pace. According to Realtor.com listing data in September 2018, 412 out of 500 metros had year-over-year gains in the median listing prices, although fewer compared to 430 metros one year ago.  Among the large metro areas that had year-over-year declines in median list prices on Realtor.com were Denver (-9.5%), Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington (-0.7%), and Austin-Round Rock (-3.4%).

REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey: September 2018 Highlights

The REALTORS® Confidence Index (RCI) survey[1] gathers monthly information from REALTORS® about local real estate market conditions, characteristics of buyers and sellers, and issues affecting homeownership and real estate transactions.[2] This report presents key results about market transactions from September 2018. View and download the full report here.

Market Conditions and Expectations

  • The REALTORS® Buyer Traffic Index registered at 51 (61 in September 2017).[3]
  • The REALTORS® Seller Traffic Index registered at 41 (45 in September 2017).
  • The REALTORS® Confidence Index—SixMonth Outlook Current Conditions registered at 53 for detached single-family, 44 for townhome, and 43 for condominium properties. An index above 50 indicates market conditions are expected to improve.
  • Properties were typically on the market for 32 days (34 days in September 2017).
  • Eighty-one percent of respondents reported that home prices remained constant or rose in September 2018 compared to levels one year ago (85 percent in September 2017).

Characteristics of Buyers and Sellers

  • First-time buyers accounted for 32 percent of sales (29 percent in September 2017).
  • Vacation and investment buyers comprised 13 percent of sales (15 percent in September 2017).
  • Sales of distressed properties (foreclosed or sold as a short sale) accounted for three percent of sales (four percent in September 2017).
  • Cash sales made up 21 percent of sales (20 percent in September 2017).
  • Twenty percent of sellers offered incentives such as providing warranty (9 percent), paying for closing costs (8 percent), undertaking remodeling (3 percent), and providing appliances (1 percent).[4]

Issues Affecting Buyers and Sellers

  • From July–September 2018, 74 percent of contracts settled on time (73 percent in September 2017).
  • Among sales that closed in September 2018, 73 percent had contract contingencies. The most common contingencies pertained to home inspection (55 percent), obtaining financing (42 percent), and getting an acceptable appraisal (42 percent).
  • REALTORS® report “low inventory” and “interest rate” as the major issues affecting transactions in September 2018.

About the RCI Survey

  • The RCI Survey gathers information from REALTORS® about local market conditions based on their client interactions and the characteristics of their most recent sales for the month.
  • The September 2018 survey was sent to 50,000 REALTORS® who were selected from NAR’s 1.3 million members through simple random sampling and to 10,912 respondents in the previous three surveys who provided their email addresses.
  • There were 5,003 respondents to the online survey which ran from October 1-10, 2018. The survey’s overall margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is one percent. The margins of error for subgroups and sample proportions of below or above 50 percent are larger.
  • NAR weighs the responses by a factor that aligns the sample distribution of responses to the distribution of NAR membership.

The REALTORS® Confidence Index is provided by NAR solely for use as a reference. Resale of any part of this data is prohibited without NAR’s prior written consent. For questions on this report or to purchase the RCI series, please email: Data@realtors.org


[1] Thanks to George Ratiu, Managing Director, Housing and Commercial Research and Gay Cororaton, Research Economist for their data analysis and comments to the RCI Report.

[2] Respondents report on the most recent characteristics of their most recent sale for the month.

[3] An index greater than 50 means more respondents reported conditions as “strong” compared to one year ago than “weak.” An index of 50 indicates a balance of respondents

who viewed conditions as “strong” or “weak.”

[4] The difference in the sum of percentages to the total percentage of sellers who offered incentives is due to rounding.

September 2018 Existing-Home Sales

  • NAR released a summary of existing-home sales data showing that housing market activity this September was down 3.4 percent from last month, and dropped 4.1 percent from last year. September’s existing-home sales reached a 5.15 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, which was the lowest since November 2015 when the index reached 4.78 million.

  • The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $258,100 in September, up 4.2 percent from a year ago. This marks the 79th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

  • Regionally, all four regions showed growth in prices from a year ago, with the West and Northeast both having the biggest advance of 4.1 percent. The South had a gain of 3.0 percent. The Midwest had the smallest gain of 1.9 percent from September 2017.
  • September’s inventory figures are down from last month to 1.88 million homes for sale. Compared with September of 2017, there was a 1.1 percent increase in inventory levels. It will take 4.4 months to move the current level of inventory at the current sales pace. It takes approximately 32 days for a home to go from listing to a contract in the current housing market, down from 34 days a year ago.

  • From August 2018, three of the four regions experienced declines in sales. The South had the biggest decline of 5.4 percent followed by the West with a dip in sales of 3.6 percent. The Northeast had a dip of 2.9 percent. The Midwest region was flat showing no change in sales.
  • All four regions showed declines in sales from a year ago. The West had the biggest drop in sales of 12.2 percent. The Northeast had a decline of 5.6 percent followed by the Midwest with a decline of 1.5 percent. The South had the smallest drop in sales of 0.5 percent. The South led all regions in percentage of national sales, accounting for 41.0 percent of the total, while the Northeast had the smallest share at 13.2 percent.

  • In September, single-family and condominiums sales were both down 3.4 percent compared to last month. Single-family home sales fell 4.0 percent and condominium sales were down 5.0 compared to a year ago. Both single-family and condominiums had an increase in price with single-family up 4.6 percent at $260,500 and condominiums up 1.50 percent at $239,200 from September 2017.



Empire Realty | 907-374-4663 | Contact Us
627 Gaffney Rd Suite 101 - Fairbanks, AK 99701
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