Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Housing market: crash, bang, wallop, and more decline?

With a rush of house price statistics due over the next couple of days, its worth having a look at the latest issue of Roof with its depressing Housing market healthcheck. The article by Julian Birch includes a depressing graph from Nationwide which features on the website. The graph shows the four cycles of boom and bust in the UK housing market since 1970. Basically the graph shows that house prices remain above their trend – for now…

House price falls are likely to be given a shove by the on-going credit drought. I was cheered up to hear one commentator refer to the end of the banking crisis. But then we had last weekend’s twitchiness in the USA about Bank of America and Citigroup.

Earlier this month The Economist made reference to Alt-A mortgages in the USA. After sub-prime this may trigger a sense of déjà vu. These mortgages have what might have once been called “innovative” features such as payments that are less than interest – so the debt grows for several years. Financial institutions have been digesting these rather toxic assets. As American borrowers come to the end of their not-even-interest-only periods, I suspect that even more misery will result. (House prices in the USA have fallen 25% already.)

Back to the latest issue of Roof … I would recommend you buy it if you want to read several articles on how the credit crunch is affecting the housing market and policy. However, it’s not an uplifting read when it looks like in 2009 the number of repossessions may be greater than the number of house-building starts.

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