Sunday, March 9, 2008

So how many homeowners will be underwater?

Sometimes you have to wonder if press headlines indicate the bottom of the economic downside in some sort of contrary manner. The most recent incarnation, It's So Much Worse Than You Think, actually focuses on the number of homeowners that will have negative equity as housing prices continue to fall.

As outlined in the article, currently housing prices are down 8.4% placing 13.5% of homeowners in a situation where they have negative equity in their homes. The downside of housing prices is likely to reach 15% without a recession and 30% with a recession. A 30% decrease in housing prices would leave 39% of U.S. homeowners with negative equity in their homes.

Owning more money than the home is worth; many of these homeowners may simply walk away from their homes. We have seen this occur with local housing crashes in the past, such as Texas during the oil bust. Now the table is set for a nationwide incarnation of this scenario.

This of course will place the banks under additional stress that normally plan for a mere 1 or 2% default rate; rather than the 5 or 6% default rate from prime loans which would be seen with this type of recession.

On one hand the article may be on target that vicious cycle of additional housing driven downside remains; on the other hand it could serve as a signal that it is time to start buying rental housing on the cheap.