Let’s face it, we are being bombarded by economic predictions of all kinds this month; so much so that I even hesitated to add my own to the massive pile. But, since my mission is to provide you with insight into our Lake Norman housing market and the role the national, state and local economy plays on our successes and weakness, I will once again do my best to assess and make predictions for 2012.
The last line of my 2011 predictions was actually a fairly accurate summary of 2011:
2011 may hold some surprises but for the most part it will be a year of stops and starts; ups and downs and hopefully dwindling inventory.
And, indeed, we did experience a significant shrinking of our inventory of active listings so the 2011 Lake Norman real estate market actually exceeded my expectations.
In some respects, I could pretty much just copy my 2011 predictions for 2012 as I really don’t see many short-term signs that would justify a significant change in either direction. With distressed sales currently representing only 10.8% of our active inventory in my opinion short sales and foreclosures will not drive or dominate our market as they did in the past, particularly 2009-2010. That said, in the first two weeks of 2012, 46% of the properties that just went under contract were either short sales, pre-foreclosures or bank-owned which underscores the mood of our current buyers…they want bargains when possible.
Before I go into more detail, let’s look at the larger economic issues that will impact our local market.
The Big Picture:
2012 will be about jobs, consumer confidence, stability of the European economy, handling of the backlog of foreclosures not to mention a year of political elections.
- Most economists seem to agree that our country will experience a year of modest growth in 2012.
- Interest rates are currently at record lows (under 4%) and are expected to rise hand-in-hand with the strengthening US economy but remain historically low.
- “A fresh emphasis on healing the housing sector by…the Federal Reserve, in the Obama administration and in state capitols reflects the view that a healthier real estate market would go a long way in strengthening the economy” according to an article on November 3, 2011 in Reuters. Good news that they are focusing on housing!
- The proposed Feds pilot program turning bank-owned properties into rentals and a proposal that Fannie and Freddie provide an 12-month reprieve or reduced payments for the unemployed are supported as positive efforts that will help stabilize our national housing market. Home loans will continue to be a very challenging process and will play a role in hindering the ability for our housing market to improve.
- Unlike last year at this time, nationally and locally our unemployment rates are falling.
- Inventory of homes for sale and mortgage delinquencies are dropping nationwide and here in Lake Norman
- Regarding shadow inventory of properties in the foreclosure process, one pundit summed it up very well: “Distressed inventory’s impact isn’t so much to lower prices as to prevent them from rising for many years.”
- National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun said: “Lower inventory is a signal that price declines are coming to an end….prices have been moving both up and down with no consistent direction since 2009. In other words: prices have been roughly stable for the past 3 years.”
- The National Association of Home Builders is forecasting GDP growth in 2012 at 2.2-2.4% and single-family housing starts to gain 17% in 2012 “following what was almost the worst year on record in 2011… The bottom line for 2012 is that, while demand for new homes won’t ‘burst forward’, it will slowing improve now that the overall housing market appears to have reached bottom and started back on the path to recovery.”
- An article on 12/11, Money Magazine noted that 2012 is a great year to buy “if appropriate for you” based upon cheap interest rates and a slight uptick in the national housing market
- According to a survey (sponsored by Zillow Inc) of more than 100 economists, real estate experts and investment strategists, Home prices…won’t hit bottom until late 2012 or early 2013.
- An article this week in Kiplinger noted: “The bleeding is just about over, but don’t expect a speedy recovery…the worst is over…this doesn’t mean prices across the nation are poised to rebound any time soon.” “2012 will be the year that prices finally stabilize, setting the stage for gains in 2013.”
Our Lake Norman housing market is also going to be impacted significantly by regional economic components, especially jobs.
- “Economists are predicting a sluggish economic recovery for North Carolina and the nation in 2012” according to an article in the Charlotte Observer on 1/4 2012. According to attendees at the recent Economic Forecast Forum sponsored by the NC Chamber and NC Bankers Association, “don’t expect dramatic improvements in the state unemployment rate this year.”
- Predictions for North Carolina: N.C. Jobless rate will drop to 9.3% from 10% in 2012. N.C. economic growth for 2012 will be 2% and N.C. will gain 40,000 jobs in 2012 compared to about 21,000 in 2011.
- North Carolina is still a destination for many from around the country ranking among the fastest-growing states according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Altas Movers also ranked North Carolina in the top ten “inbound” states where more people move into the state than move out. Good news for our long term market!
- North Carolina also ranked at the very top for the number of retiree’s moving to the state by the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Forbes and Site Selection both ranked North Carolina 3rd in the best states for business/best business climate and in 3rd place on the list of migration to rather than from the state.
- North Carolina ranks among the states with the lowest number of foreclosures, coming in at 34 according to a Charlotte Observer article on 11/11/11.
- Buyers will continue to expect bargains sometimes unjustifiably so. With such low inventory, I am seeing properties that have been sitting selling at prices that are higher than the past few years. Sellers will need to steel themselves for low-ball offers as buyers continue to feel the need to attempt to get a very low price. This will change as prices stabilize and consumer confidence rises. It is important to note that this varies greatly by price range and neighborhood.
- Foreclosures and short sales will continue to make up about 1/3 of our Lake Norman sales but represent only about 10% of our inventory. We will continue to see active listings slowly evolving into short sales or foreclosures and new foreclosures coming on the market as the shadow inventory is cycled into our market. These will sell at a disproportionately higher rate that non-distressed properties.
- Shadow Inventory? One of the biggest questions I have again this year is just how many Lake Norman homeowners are either waiting to sell until they see a turn in the market or have withdrawn their homes from the market while planning to bring them back on the market once they see signs of improvement. Our inventory is currently at record lows and we are closing in on our goal of 6-8 months of supply. The question is will a large number of sellers who have been waiting now jump into the market as they see sales improving thus weakening our recovery? And, how many foreclosures are coming?
- More of the same? Yes and no. We are starting out 2012 with weak sales numbers but significantly lower inventory as well. In 2012 I think we will continue to experience erratic monthly highs and lows in sales. Foreclosures and shortsales will continue to keep our overall average prices down but will not dominate our prices in every price range or neighborhood. As pent-up home-buyers begin to accept that our Lake Norman housing market is stabilizing, they will take advantage of the low interest rates and jump off the fence when they find the right home that suits their needs.
- With inventory so low, I predict that our sales will remain at about 900 in 2012 which is about equal to the past two years. Our overall average prices will stabilize but there will be many fluxuations within price ranges, neighborhoods, waterfront properties. I feel pretty confident that 2012 is the year to buy waterfront properties as I watch the inventory of nice homes with good water at great prices disappearing and not being replaced. It is going to more important than ever for buyers and sellers to know their specific niche’s recent comparable sales and not to rely on old data.
- Be informed, be smart and be realistic!
I would love to hear your thoughts and predictions. Please leave a comment!