Thursday, October 18, 2007

Market Update for Gwinnett County, August 2007 (updated 10-17-07)

I need to change the format on these numbers just a bit. I have been trying to put out the market report around the 15th of the month for the previous month (10/15 for Sept., for example). However, the numbers have been changing so dramatically that I am seeing changes for the previous month (seeing changes to August when I do the 10/15 report) and the changes are dramatic. So, in response, I need to back up the reports just a little. I will try to get future reports out in the first week of the month, but they will be lagging a little over 30 days. This means that around the first week of November I will post a September report.

At this time I will be updating the August report.

August prices are pointing up, but preliminary numbers for September are pointing the other way. I think we need to see a drop in prices to spur buyers into action. I don’t expect that to be much, but a modest decrease of maybe 2%. Currently we are up 4% vs. last year. June was up 5%, and July up 2%. This might also be partly a function of some of the new home sales on the higher end of the market. I would really like to see this flatten a little, as I think it would spur a little more buying.

Time on the market is also trending up vs. last year. We are up to 88 days. That is almost 3 weeks (18 days) more than this time last year. Last month was 80 days on market, but that was also 10 days more than July 2006. May sales were the lowest this year at 76 days on the market. In fact, May was the lowest since last October (2006) when the DoM was 72 days.

By now, I think anyone in the housing market has heard of the Sub-prime Mortgage Meltdown. It is still a big player on the market. Buyers that were marginal even six months ago are out of the market now. Buyers that are solid are still solid. If anything, those buyers are in a stronger position. Since there are fewer buyers, they have increased strength with sellers. Furthermore, I’m starting to see lenders trying to court those strong buyers. Face it, mortgage lenders make money by loaning money. They can only stop writing for so long before they need to look at making money again. Obviously the marginal buyers aren’t popular with the secondary market, so getting “A paper” mortgages back into the stream will become more of an imperative… and so I expect to see rates slide a little for the best buyers.

The current mortgage climate is tough. For buyers with weak credit history, the market is almost closed. Alt A loans (stated income, no documentation) will be away from the market for the foreseeable future, except for the rarest of good credit buyers. And expect that 0% down and even 3% down loans will be reserved for those with better credit.

I think it is getting to be time to say that smart investors need to get back in the market. Buy & Hold strategies will be heavily rewarded in the long run. Prices are good, rates are kicking for those with good credit. There might be a slight easing of prices in the coming months, but I wouldn’t count on it, and we won’t know that we’ve hit bottom until we are off of it.

Finally, remember that we can only get an accurate look in the rear-view mirror. We will only KNOW there has been a change in the market when we see it has already changed. We’ll know that change has taken place when we see all of the best deals are already gone. Currently, I can’t get an accurate picture of overall market activity for at least 30 days after the end of the month. That means that the market could be well into a turn before the numbers will bear it out. And, while I don’t know that we should expect increasing values terribly soon, I don’t think prices will drop much either.

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