Researchers at First American Financial Services examined how the country’s housing market has fared historically during recessionary periods.
While the Great Recession is still fresh in the minds of many, its devastating effects on housing are unique when juxtaposed against all other recessions since 1980.
The demise of the real estate market during the Great Recression wasn’t so much a symptom as it was one of the causes.
The housing boom preceding it was largely driven by an explosion in both home-building activity and mortgage credit.
Home buyers were able to get mortgages with no documentation of their income and no down payment, and many loans had introductory 0% interest periods that made them cheap to start but more expensive as time wore on.
In addition, the banks fueled rampant speculation by packaging these risky mortgages into securities they sold to investors at inflated values.
The combination resulted in a cascade of collapsing banks and businesses and mass layoffs. Many unemployed homeowners found themselves over-leveraged and unable to make their payments. Foreclosures resulted. Over-development led to crashing prices.
Conversely, growth in home prices during the current economic cycle is a simple reflection of supply and demand: Many Americans want to become homeowners, but the supply of homes available for sale is very low, pushing prices upward. Additionally, lending laws have been tightened to make sure only the most qualified borrowers can receive mortgage loans.
Aspiring buyers hoping that home prices will crash like they did during the Great Recession are likely in for disappointment. With inventory low, and more members of the giant millennial generation wanting single-family homes, demand isn’t likely to drop off anytime soon.
While new homeowners might be priced out, current homeowners have seen their home equity grow substantially.
And with home prices expected to remain high, fewer folks will find themselves underwater on their mortgage. That should make it easier to unload the residences if need be.
In all other downturns, the housing market has been a steadying hand in economic recovery. Home price appreciation continued at an even pace, and existing-home sales growth only edged downward slightly.