The Wall Street Journal
Five issues for housing in 2012
Just as in 2011, in 2012 many will be trying to figure out where housing is headed. While the housing market didn’t worsen in 2011, it also didn’t stabilize either. This year, the story will be about local markets. While many housing markets rose and fell together, they’re recovering at difference paces so talking about housing on a national level is not beneficial.
Making sense of the story
Confidence and jobs: Housing is more affordable than it has been in decades, but many would-be buyers are worried about buying today if prices are going to be lower tomorrow. Still, others don’t want to buy a house until they have more evidence that they’re not going to get laid off or see their hours cut back.
Foreclosures: Banks and other mortgage investors own around 440,000 foreclosed properties, but there’s another 3.4 million loans in foreclosure or serious delinquency, according to estimates by Barclays Capital. Because banks are faster to cut prices to unload inventory than are traditional sellers, home values can fall further as the share of distressed sales rises.
Rents: If low mortgage rates aren’t enough to give urgency to would-be buyers, rent hikes could accelerate buyers’ decisions to take the plunge.
Mortgage credit and rates: It’s still hard for many buyers to get approved for a mortgage because banks are demanding lots of documentation of borrowers’ incomes.
Regulation: Many analysts don’t expect Congress to make major changes to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the election year, but several major regulatory changes could significantly reshape the future of the lending landscape in 2012.
Meanwhile, the regulator that oversees Fannie and Freddie is revamping the way that mortgage companies are paid for collecting loan payments. This could lead to a broader shakeup in the mortgage industry that ultimately influences how much borrowers are charged for mortgages and how banks handle loans that fall into delinquency…
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