2009 Real Estate Forecast: Troubles Spread
Wealthier neighborhoods that avoided subprime borrowing will be hurt in the new year as the downturn weakens even healthy markets
2008 was the year that subprime borrowers and speculators got hurt by the real estate crisis. 2009 could be when everyone else gets hit.
Until now, the nation’s most serious home price declines have been in low-cost markets that were dominated by subprime mortgages, and in overbuilt markets such as Florida, California, and Las Vegas, where residential values are sliding fast toward pre-housing boom levels.
That’s because the big story in 2009 could be that, with the deepening recession and mounting job losses, serious housing troubles could infect wealthier communities and markets that were just beginning to stabilize this summer before the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers on Sept. 15 sparked the most serious financial turmoil in decades. In fact, according to online real estate research firm HousingPredictor.com, based in Destin, Fla., housing prices nationwide will fall 12.5% next year, compared with an estimated 11.1% this year.
Housing and mortgage problems pushed the nation into a recession that could now amplify, draw out, and expand the reach of the housing declines.
Take Manhattan, for example, where condo and co-op prices soared years after housing bubbles in most other major cities popped. New York City’s real estate market was bolstered by residents who were still earning sky-high Wall Street bonuses and by a weak dollar that attracted overseas bargain hunters.
Now that the dollar has strengthened, the economic woes have spread to potential New York home buyers across the globe, and thousands of New York financial professionals are collecting severance. Manhattan apartment prices, as a result, have dropped as much as 20% since the summer, said Jonathan Miller, president and chief executive officer of real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel. Miller’s analysis is based on contracts signed in recent months, rather than actual closings.
“Mid-september was a milestone,” Miller said. “That’s where you saw a pronounced slowdown in transaction volume.”
HousingPredictor.com is projecting a 19.4% decline in Manhattan home prices in 2009. And Moody’s Economy.com is predicting that condo prices in New York City, Northern New Jersey, and Westchester County will fall 29% by the fourth quarter of next year.
“Nationally, we think this recession is going to be worse than anything we’ve seen in 40 years,” said Marisa DiNatale, senior economist for Moody’s Economy.com. “If the economy gets that bad, then you will start to see foreclosures in Manhattan as well.”
Few areas across the country will likely escape the recession and the corresponding impact on the real estate market, housing experts say. Another wave of foreclosures could be triggered next year as a flood of Alt-A and option adjustable-rate mortgages, which were given to people with decent credit, begin to recast.
“We’re in the middle of the game here,” said Joseph Seneca, professor of economics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “There’s significant further unwinding to come…. We’re in a downward spiral with job losses that is reinforcing the weakness in the consumer markets, particularly in the largest investment the consumer makes, in his home.”