Where is Real Estate Headed?

Written by Phoebe Chongchua

Many have watched the real estate market with bated breath, wondering what lies ahead. The Norris Group, a California-based company that produces an annual report on the state of real estate and predictions, provides some insight. The company recently released the Tip of the Iceberg report by Bruce Norris, an active investor, hard money lender, and real estate educator with 29 years of experience. While the report focuses on California, there are many other national predictions included. Here’s a look at what Norris is predicting in the coming eight years.

“Real estate isn’t even the first domino. Everything that happens in real estate can happen because of other things,” Norris said at a conference earlier this year. In this report, I’m looking at all those other things and finally seeing that they play a big part, if not the biggest part, in how things work out,” said Norris.

The report shows the various government programs for delinquent and financially challenged homeowners and reveals a disturbing fact. “All the delinquency trends for all the types of loans are up,” said Norris. “It doesn’t matter if it’s prime or subprime.” “The national average is 13.2 percent for total non-current (both delinquencies and foreclosures). California ranks at 15 percent, Illinois at 14 percent, Pennsylvania at 10.7 percent, and Florida, the highest, at 23.5 percent. “My friend Alex lives in Florida in Orlando and houses that were selling for $180,000 to $220,000, he’s regularly buying for $20,000 to $22,000,” said Norris.

The national average for the total non-current FHA loans (including delinquencies and foreclosures) is 17.4 percent. California is at 9.7 percent, Illinois at 21.3 percent, Pennsylvania at 15.3 percent, and Florida is at 23.8 percent.

Norris thinks this will provoke more usage of the 203(k) Mortgage by HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). The “Streamline (K)” Limited Repair Program permits homebuyers to finance an additional $35,000 into their mortgage to improve or upgrade their home before move-in. “They’ll actually loan you more than the house is worth, intentionally,” said Norris. “Right now it’s only available for owner-occupants but I’m sure that’s about to change,” he said.

“All of us who thought that we were going to see REOs (real estate owned by lending institutions) all over the place for the last few years are quite surprised,” he said. “It’s because there was intervention.” But how will that intervention and the aging population impact us? The report states that having a Federal debt that is trillions of dollars (and growing) and the size of the baby boomer generation will cause big changes that affect finances and real estate. “You’re going to expect higher taxes,” he said. Norris predicts, maybe even up to 45 percent for top tax bracket in 2011 and possibly higher after that. “If we’re going to try to resolve some of our problems and pay for stuff that’s gone on in the past, I think you’re going to have to say ‘We’re going to have to pay some higher taxes.'” Norris also predicts higher unemployment, aging consumers buying less and saving more which he says will mean more burden on the government due to fewer tax revenues and greater expense for government.

Perhaps the good news is the prediction for consistently low interest rates. “This is one of the conclusions that I didn’t think I was going to come up with. I really thought that we’d probably have some scary interest rates but I just don’t think so. Without an overheated economy, I don’t see the big inflation risk for the next period of time. I see the big picture that it could be very scary but for the length of time that I’m trying to cover in this report, I’m not as afraid of it as I thought I’d be,” said Norris.

He thinks over the next eight years, interest rates will be under 8 percent “and you may have times where they are as cheap as they are now.” Norris anticipates milder price increases in real estate as well as a decline in ownership coupled with a constant inventory available. The report also points out something that buyers are already facing, “regulation of finance markets might make it harder to get finance.” He predicts the median price to increase for California to approximately $460,000 in the beginning of 2018 due to factors such as migration. And if the employment conditions improve in the state, Norris thinks migration numbers will do even better, helped in part due to retirees moving into the state. Norris expects more emphasis on housing for seniors, which seems to be a trend in many states.

“I view the next eight years as a pivotal time for us, as a country, to make sure that we don’t end with bigger problems than we’ve got,” said Norris.

The good news is that Norris predicts less volatility in the real estate market and expects increases, albeit, not as drastic as in the past.

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