On the path to a housing rebound
The pain that homeowners and homebuilders are feeling now is a sign that things are going to get better.
NEW YORK (Fortune) — The news that housing starts have fallen to their lowest level in 17 years sounds like one more reason to be depressed about the shrinking value of your home. In fact, it’s an almost certain sign that the path to a housing recovery is finally in sight.
If prices are going to stabilize, let alone rebound, the United States needs to produce far more first-time home buyers than new houses. That’s the only way to tame the glut of “For Sale” signs dotting front yards from the Inland Empire of California to the Gold Coast of Florida.
Builders constructed far more homes from 2002 until 2006 – the peak bubble years – than could possibly be absorbed by the normal growth in households.
As a result, the market is now swamped with one million new and existing homes for sale that aren’t occupied, and hence need to sell quickly. That’s a multiple of the figure in most downturns, and it testifies to the duration and girth of the bubble.
“For the recovery to begin, builders need to eliminate the standing inventory of finished, unoccupied new homes,” says Mike Castleman, founder of Metrostudy, which assembles sales data on four million subdivisions across the U.S.