Mortgage crisis: A 10-year retrospective


Real estate is a key component of the U.S. economy.   Aside from providing basic shelter, it is a commodity that consumers desire to purchase and a mortgage is used to finance the transaction.  Yet, it was the environment in 2008 where an industry as we knew it offered slim prospects of recovery.


Fast forward to 2018, recovery is obvious.  home prices continue to climb to record levels leaving many to wonder if they will ever be able to afford a home, let alone experience the “American dream?”   At the same time if must not be discounted that millions, for various reasons lost homes.  For them, then and now home-ownership represents the biggest transaction they will complete in their lifetime.  Likewise, it represents the biggest financial asset.

NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 17: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange September 17, 2008 in New York City. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 449 points today despite American International Group, Inc. (AIG) $85 billion government bailout. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

For some 2008 seemed like a lifetime ago.  No doubt it was a scary time especially for those who were part of the economic meltdown.  Cash was tight, employment or the ability to earn a living was in great jeopardy, homes which were treasured started disappearing in record numbers – like never seen before.   Many were lured into the notion property appreciation was constant and even though they may have bet on risky mortgage products, they felt confident they would be able to refinance out of any calamity.  Political leaders labeled the period as one not seen since the great depression of the 1930’s.

 

BOWIE, MD-AUGUST 18: Comfort Boateng sorts through two large boxes of mortgage and financial papers as she talks about their financial situation on August 18, 2014 in Bowie, Maryland. The Boatengs continue to live in their home where they haven’t made a mortgage payment in nearly six years. They built the 3,292-square-foot Fairwood home in 2005. Fairwood, is among one of the richest black neighborhoods in America, in Prince Georges County Maryland; yet it was among the hardest hit from the financial crisis of 2008. More than half of the people who bought homes there wound up in foreclosure. (Photo by Michel du Cille/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Here is a list of lenders who imploded starting in 2006


Subprime blamed

 

The crisis erupted in 2008, however signs were simmering that something might be amiss as early as 2005.  Interestingly it was a common refrain for the very political leaders and even industry leaders to target the culprit as subprime lending.  The problem with that assessment is it is incorrect, at least from a practical definition.

WILMINGTON, OH – DECEMBER 19: Bill and Dottie Neace embrace in their home December 19, 2008 in Wilmington, Ohio. Dottie Neace, currently undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer, fears she may not be able to continue her treatments if her husband loses his job, which provides their health insurance. He works for the air shipping company ABX, which is currently laying off thousands of workers. He recently underwent surgery for a ruptured colon, making eligibility for affordable post-employment healthcare uncertain. The job cuts between air shipping partners ABX and DHL, the two largest employers in Wilmington, will total between 7,000-10,000 lost jobs. The resulting high rate of unemployment is expected to devastate the local economy, both in terms of health coverage for residents, joblessness and in lost tax revenues to support schools and basic services in the area. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Prior to subprime coming into the mortgage vernacular in the mid 1990’s, most mortgages were considered prime.   You had to fully qualify, including for some with what appeared to be exhaustive documentation. . Your credit was not required to be perfect as long as any blemishes could be documented and explained.

 

Sub is a suffix and means “less than” or “below.”  Unfortunately, some would have you believe it meant bad credit, inferior housing or something that was substandard.  No doubt many who obtained mortgages were in that population but there was a good percentage who in fact had good credit as well as good property.

 

Alternative mortgages

 

A more reasonable understanding is defining subprime as synonymous with alternative.  In other words, subprime mortgages merely meant the borrower could not qualify for a prime mortgage.  As stated, there were millions of borrowers whose credit was above average and the alternative mortgages became a solid vehicle for them to obtain affordable mortgages.   Why was an alternative mortgage necessary?  For some, they could not fully document their income via traditional methods.   However, they had just as much money in their bank accounts as normal borrowers and their credit was just as solid.  Lenders recognized this challenge thus alternative mortgages were born and the market took off.

 

As lenders created alternative mortgages they became part of the overall subprime population.  However, it did not have the negative connotation subprime became labeled.  That is why blaming the crisis on those on the fringes with credit issues appears an easy explanation but that short-changes the reality of the subprime market.

 

 

There were many reasons which led to the crisis that erupted in 2008.  Experts have suggested factors germinated as early as 2006 and the signs of a downfall was apparent.  The only problem was many were in denial and for a good chuck of that population it was simply too late to recover.

 

“I’ve been in this business a long-time and have trained real estate professionals all over Southern California.  I’m telling you, the market is about to crash!   The late Jerry Timpone, 2006

 

In 2008 the average home price in Southern California was $429,000.  However, it must be noted that due to the crisis millions of homes were being snapped up for far less (via foreclosure and other issues which left many homeowners fleeing their properties).

HENDERSON, NV – APRIL 6: (L-R) Prudential Americana Group realtors Andrew Newcomb and Georgina Hernandez, go over information with Marylou Aleta and Chris Tan, both of Nevada, during a bus tour of bank-owned homes April 6, 2008 in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nevada. Prudential began operating Repo Tours Las Vegas recently to try to help sell the increasing number of repossessed homes. The number of foreclosures, and homes on the brink of being foreclosed on in the Las Vegas area, continues to be among the highest in the nation while the ongoing subprime mortgage crisis spreads throughout the country. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
HENDERSON, NV – APRIL 6: People walk past an auction sign as they take a bus tour of bank-owned homes April 6, 2008 in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nevada. The Prudential Americana Group began operating Repo Tours Las Vegas recently to try to help sell the increasing number of repossessed homes. The number of foreclosures, and homes on the brink of being foreclosed on in the Las Vegas area, continues to be among the highest in the nation while the ongoing subprime mortgage crisis spreads throughout the country. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Compared to today’s average home price of over $600,000, even $429,000 seems like a steal!  2008 was a turbulent time and compared today, it is a thing of the past.  During that ten-year period many who held onto their homes have been able to secure a more fixed payment mortgage, thus the surprises of a fluctuating mortgage which was popular during the early to mid-2000’s has been mitigated.

 

Companies/Business were imploding as we Cities

 

As indicated real estate, specifically the mortgage sector is important to our economy.  As the implosion of businesses picked up steam, the residual effect found cities and communities in great peril.  They too were dealt blow after blow as neighborhoods became decimated, thus reducing taxes cities need to operate.

 

WILMINGTON, OH – DECEMBER 19: Shawn Stephens, a mechanic with the air shipping company ABX, listens at a town hall meeting December 19, 2008 in Wilmington, Ohio. Local leaders and residents discussed the possibility of economic collapse of Wilmington, a town of 12,000 people, and the surrounding areas. ABX is currently laying off thousands of employees, along with its partner, the German shipping company DHL. The massive layoffs between the two largest employers in Wilmington will total between 7,000-10,000 lost jobs. The resulting high rate of unemployment is expected to devestate the local economy, both in terms of joblessness and in lost tax revenues to support schools and basic services in the area. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

While economic challenges are not the main concern as it was in 2008, today the primary concern is having enough income and down payment to snag a property.  Of course, even those who may be in a qualifying position are contemplating the definition of a “fixer-upper” or considering moving outside of the metropolitan area, which years ago would have been unthinkable.

 

So, average prices come and go.  Economic conditions are constant but looking back ten years is important to recognize the cyclical nature of real estate and realizing that most things are relative.  The take-away is if $429,000 was a jolt, and $600,000 redefines sticker-shock, it is a good bet prices will go higher before they go lower.

As for mortgages and looking back ten years, it is a simple equation; people will always have the need for shelter and a good many will be lucky enough to become homeowners.  Mortgage lenders will always look to satisfy those borrowers who are seeking affordable financing because assuming everyone has at least twenty percent as down payment and stellar credit would depress the market to a point that is not reasonable.  The trick, like any consumer purchase is to properly assess your situation so that you are not forced into a mortgage or a predicament which has the remnants of the 2008 meltdown.

 


Single Family Residences a 10-year look-back

Year Single Family Residences
Los Angeles Orange Ventura San Bernardino Riverside San Diego
2018* $629,500 $766,000 $625,000 $338,900 $379,800 $623,900
2017 $613,200 $750,400 $605,200 $326,600 $370,500 $607,500
2016 $569,100 $711,300 $575,200 $297,800 $344,200 $565,000
2015 $528,900 $681,800 $540,700 $273,900 $320,600 $529,600
2014 $486,700 $643,000 $512,000 $255,000 $300,200 $492,300
2013 $456,500 $620,000 $486,000 $230,700 $274,900 $468,500
2012 $389,200 $535,100 $419,900 $185,200 $221,700 $403,300
2011 $363,100 $494,800 $389,100 $168,800 $201,100 $370,300
2010 $391,300 $524,300 $419,500 $178,300 $213,700 $392,800
Year Single Family Residences
Los Angeles Orange Ventura San Bernardino Riverside San Diego
2009 $400,400 $539,400 $427,400 $184,500 $214,300 $401,800
2008 $429,200 $553,700 $456,500 $227,300 $254,800 $422,100
2007 $525,300 $629,200 $539,700 $328,700 $351,900 $502,700
2006 $582,200 $718,700 $625,800 $380,200 $425,800 $559,200
2005 $566,000 $715,300 $636,500 $364,700 $422,200 $572,900
2004 $481,600 $648,000 $582,000 $298,500 $366,700 $565,300
2003 $376,300 $518,100 $461,600 $216,400 $280,500 $448,100
2002 $303,700 $424,700 $378,000 $174,300 $227,700 $373,100
Year Single Family Residences
Los Angeles Orange Ventura San Bernardino Riverside San Diego
2001 $253,800 $361,000 $314,500 $150,700 $196,100 $312,400
2000 $227,500 $322,700 $283,600 $135,500 $176,600 $276,000
1999 $204,000 $285,400 $255,300 $124,400 $160,900 $240,000
1998 $185,400 $262,900 $229,700 $116,400 $146,500 $211,100
1997 $171,000 $230,500 $204,200 $111,000 $135,000 $188,100
1996 $164,000 $214,900 $195,100 $109,800 $129,900 $177,100

 

Condominiums / Co-Ops

Year Condominiums / Co-Ops
Los Angeles Orange Ventura San Bernardino Riverside San Diego
2018* $528,800 $505,200 $444,200 $336,800 $278,700 $439,000
2017 $513,300 $493,700 $424,300 $329,100 $271,100 $426,200
2016 $471,200 $456,100 $399,200 $300,100 $257,500 $391,900
2015 $443,300 $433,100 $373,100 $280,400 $250,000 $361,000
2014 $411,200 $407,400 $349,200 $263,100 $240,600 $334,500
2013 $386,900 $387,700 $328,400 $238,800 $227,400 $314,400
2012 $325,000 $316,600 $273,800 $185,500 $187,000 $259,700
2011 $312,200 $300,000 $259,500 $178,900 $174,200 $243,500
2010 $339,400 $325,800 $284,900 $195,800 $193,700 $269,300
Year Condominiums / Co-Ops
Los Angeles Orange Ventura San Bernardino Riverside San Diego
2009 $357,100 $341,200 $303,200 $202,800 $205,500 $278,200
2008 $371,300 $363,000 $328,700 $231,200 $225,900 $300,500
2007 $434,700 $421,700 $394,500 $313,300 $283,600 $352,400
2006 $483,200 $482,200 $464,200 $362,900 $346,100 $393,200
2005 $474,400 $480,800 $473,700 $356,300 $349,300 $417,300
2004 $413,500 $440,500 $433,200 $301,300 $301,300 $418,400
2003 $320,500 $348,700 $346,100 $221,800 $227,300 $334,900
2002 $260,600 $283,100 $281,300 $175,400 $188,400 $276,600
Year Condominiums / Co-Ops
Los Angeles Orange Ventura San Bernardino Riverside San Diego
2001 $216,400 $239,800 $232,400 $151,000 $169,800 $228,000
2000 $189,500 $208,800 $204,700 $136,800 $149,900 $193,800
1999 $170,400 $181,800 $181,300 $127,300 $130,300 $162,700
1998 $154,700 $166,100 $166,000 $117,600 $117,000 $143,400
1997 $141,100 $146,600 $152,000 $111,500 $111,700 $129,500
1996 $136,800 $137,900 $145,300 $108,500 $106,500 $122,600

* 2018 Median price is for May 2018
N/A – Data not available from source

See also Median Home Prices by Zip Code in Los Angeles County

Note: Movement in regional sales prices should not be interpreted as measuring changes in the cost of a standard home. Prices are influenced by changes in costs and variations in the characteristics and size of homes actually sold.

Source: Data derived from Zillow Research.


Postscript

The housing crisis was an important historic event.  Fred Thomas, III tags himself as a “student” of the mortgage industry and speaks with credibility having been employed at Countrywide Home Loans, IndyMac Bank and Bank of America.  He is currently working on a book which takes a look at the rise and fall as well as the importance they played and the development of the industry.

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