The U.S. housing crisis may accomplish what years of parental hectoring couldn’t: Turn Americans from spenders into savers.
Spending will fall because homeowners can no longer use rising real estate values to borrow cash — $837.5 billion in 2006, according to a report by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and James Kennedy. With mortgage lenders requiring down payments of 20 percent, the average household, which puts away less than 1 percent of after-tax pay, will have to save 10 percent for 10 years to buy a home.
The housing market shaved almost 1.6 percent off gross domestic product growth in the first quarter and cut in half the growth rate of consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
“The loss of housing wealth is the difference between a recessionary economy and a growing economy,” said Zandi, an adviser to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain. “Consumers have powered the global economy for the past 25 years. For the foreseeable future, maybe the next 25 years, the savings rate will move higher.”
The worst housing crisis in at least a quarter century still has a long way to go, Zandi said. It will take until 2015 for the median home price to return to its July 2006 peak of $230,200, while home sales and residential construction will never again reach the record highs of 2005 and 2006, he said.
The residential housing decline will “change the structure” of the U.S. economy by forcing Americans to save, said Neal Soss, chief economist at Credit Suisse Group in New York.
“The days of wine and roses are over,” said Soss, who worked at the Federal Reserve for former Chairman Paul Volcker in the 1980s. “We were drunk on money. Getting sober is a painful process.”