Tag Archives: existing home sales

Subprime Mortgages Come Roaring Back…

…Only this time around they are sponsored by the U.S. Government and guaranteed explicitly  by the Taxpayers.  I say “explicitly” because Government agency-issued mortgages are directly guaranteed.  In 2008, the Government bailed out the banks who had issued subprime mortgages and related derivatives, but the Taxpayer never signed up for the multi-trillion dollar bailout, which largely transferred wealth from the middle class taxpayer to the Too Big To Fail bank executives.

In an attempt to off-set the falling velocity in the housing market, taxpayer-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have reduced their credit standards on guaranteed conventional mortgages several times over the last 3 years. In 2015 they reduced the down payment requirement to 3% from 5%. In addition, they reduced the amount mortgage insurance required on mortgages with less than 10% down. Then they allowed “soft dollar” contributions to count as part of the 3% down payment, like seller concessions or realtor commission concessions. They also allowed homebuyers to use loans from other sources to fund the down payment. In this manner, a homebuyer could prospectively buy a home with a taxpayer-guaranteed mortgage using no cash out pocket.

Then last June (2017) Fannie and Freddie raised the Debt To Income (DTI) ratio from 45% to 50%. DTI is the ratio of monthly debt payments (all forms of household debt payments) to the borrower’s monthly gross income. A borrower with a DTI of 50%, including the new mortgage, is using 50% of monthly net income to make debt payments (mortgage, credit cart, auto, student loans, personal loans).

The chart on the right shows the spike-up in the number of conventional mortgages issued by Fannie and Freddie once the DTI was raised (source: Corelogic w/my edits). As you can see, before the DTI was raised the number of mortgages issued with a DTI over 45% was one in twenty. After the change, the one in five new mortgages backed by the taxpayer were issued to homebuyers with a DTI over 45%. This is, by far, the highest level of high-DTI mortgages since the financial crisis.

But the story gets worse. The Urban Institute conducted a study of high DTI mortgages and discovered that 25% of all Fannie Mae mortgages issued to borrowers with a credit score below 700 had a DTI over 45% in just the first two months of 2018. This is up from 19% a year earlier. This is after Fannie Mae reported a $6.5 billion loss in Q4 2017 that the taxpayers will cover. The Government raised the DTI in order to stimulate home sales by inducing households, who could otherwise not afford the monthly cost of home ownership, into taking on even more debt to purchase a home. The majority of these home “buyers” will ultimately default and the taxpayer will get the privilege of eating the loss.

Zillow Group Is Now Flipping Homes? – Zillow Group stock plunged as much as 11% on Friday after it announced that it would be adding home flipping to its home-listing services. Clearly the market was spooked by this announcement – and for good reason. The plan will significantly raise ZG’s risk profile and will require the assumption of $10’s of millions in debt, depending on the number of homes ZG holds on its balance sheet any given time. It’s plan now forecasts holding up to 1,000 homes by year-end.

ZG stock is extraordinarily overvalued.   The Company released its Q4 and full-year 2017 earnings on February 8th and the numbers had little affect on ZG’s stock. ZG continues to generate operating and net losses. It incurred a $174 million intangibles write-down in Q4 2017 that was related to its 2015 acquisition of Trulia. While the Company and Wall St. analysts will remove this write-down as “non-recurring, non-cash,” it is indeed a write-down that occurred to an asset for which Zillow overpaid by at least $174 million. As the housing market fades, ZG will likely incur bigger write-downs of its “intangibles and goodwill,” which represents 85% of ZG’s book value.

The move into home-flipping signals, at least in my view, that ZG has determined that its current business model will never be profitable. The decision to test  home flipping in Phoenix and Vegas can be seen as desperate attempt to generate income. Ironically, in the last housing bubble, flippers in those two markets were decimated. I don’t see how this will end well for ZG, especially now that Congress is exploring rules changes to Fannie and Freddie that will raise the cost of conventional mortgages. The conventional mortgage user is the prime market for home flippers and now the average conventional mortgage applicant has de facto sub-prime credit.

By the way, just for the record, on average and in general, home prices are coming down quickly in most markets.  Case Shiller is severely lagged data and it emphasizes price gains from flips.  Robert Shiller used to admit to these facts publicly. Now he’s a bubble cheerleader like everyone else who sold out.

Taxpayer:  Get ready to eat more losses on the housing and mortgage market.

The commenetary above is from my latest Short Seller’s Journal. For the past several issues I have been focusing on both short-term and long-term homebuilder short ideas. Several of my subscribers have told me they are making double-digit percentage gains on the ideas presented. You can learn more about this unique newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

“LEN! Bagged another 30% on April $60 puts.  Of course took some profits and added more to other ideas” – subscriber email last week

But, What About The Housing Market?

A colleague of mine pointed out that Trump has not been tweeting his flatulence about the economy recently.  This thankful hiatus is after he just passed a tax cuts and a spending budget that is supposed to be stimulative.  As it  turns out, the economy is hitting the headwinds of marginally higher interest rates and a consumer that is bulging from the eyeballs with debt.   Windfall tax rebates to large corporations will not fix this nor will rampant Government deficit spending.

This leads us to the housing market. Mortgage originations were down 5.6% in Q4 from Q3. This is not a result of seasonal bias. Q4 mortgage originations in 2017 were down 26.7% from Q4 2016. One caveat is that the Fed does not breakout the numbers between purchase mortgages and refinancing. But higher rates are starting to affect all mortgage applications. According to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association, mortgage purchase applications dropped 6% two weeks in the row. Declines in purchase apps should not happen moving from January to February, as February is statistically a seasonally stronger month for home sales than January.

Moreover, existing home sales for January were released this morning. To the extent that we can trust the National Association or Realtor’s Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate statistical Cuisinart, existing home sales plunged 3.2% in January from December and nearly 5% from January 2018. Decembers headline report was revised lower. I’m sure the King of Spin, Larry Yun, will blame it on “low inventory.”  But this is simply not true:

If Yun’s thesis were true, the chart above would be inverted. Instead, going back to j1998, there is a definitive inverse correlation between inventory and home sales.  Curiously, when attempted to run the numbers to the present, I discovered that the Fed removed the data series I had used to create the chart in in 2015.  Mere coincidence, I’m sure…

The mortgage rate for a 30-yr fixed rate conventional mortgage at Wells Fargo, the  country’s second largest mortgage originator, is now 4.5% with an APR of 4.58%. As recently as September, the rate for a 30yr mortgage was 3.87%. At current rates, the monthly payment for a home purchase with a $400,000 mortgage has increased $187. It may not sound like much, but for many first-time buyers that small jump in monthly payment can mean the difference between buying and not buying.

Since the Fed began printing money and the Government knocked the down payment requirement to 3% on a Government-backed mortgage, homebuyers have based the amount they are willing to pay for a home on determining the highest possible monthly payment the mortgage underwriter will allow. In the example above, the monthly payment on a $400k mortgage at 3.78% is $1,857. At 4.58%, the same payment only “buys” a $363,000 mortgage. This is nearly a 10% decline.

The same math applies to flippers/investment buyers, who pay an even higher rate for an investment purchase. One of the SSJ subscribers is a real estate professional here in Denver. She emailed to tell me that, “it doesn’t take much for interest rates to change Investors ideas.” She has a client who wants to buy an investment home for around $350000. Since investor rate loans are at least a quarter of a point higher than an owner-occupied mortgage, the client’s purchase with 20% down goes up $161 a month from the from the recent jump in mortgage rates. This means he now needs the rent to go up by that much to work on the purchase-decision formula he is using.” I believe that a lot of flippers are going to be stuck with homes they can’t re-sell at the price they paid.

The average price the average-income homebuyer can afford has declined nearly 10% as a result of just a 75 basis point rise in mortgage rates. What happens when rates go up another 50-75 basis points? This fact has not been reflected in the home price data that is released every month from Case-Shiller and from the Government. This is because those surveys have a 3-6 month lag built into the methodology of calculating their respective home price indices.

As it becomes obvious that the price the average potential homebuyer can pay has been reduced from $400k to $363k, it will trigger a price decline cycle similar to 2007-2009. Flippers will be the first to fold just like during the mid-2000’s housing bubble. That housing market crash was triggered by the collapse of subprime lenders, which removed a key source of funding used by flipper and for end-user home purchases from flippers. This time around it will be triggered by a lack of buyers who are able to pay the same price now that they could have paid in September when rates were 80 basis points lower. Soon rates will be 180 basis points higher than in September and home values will be crushed.

The analysis on the housing market above is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal,  a weekly newsletter that provides insight on the latest economic data and provides short-sell ideas, including strategies for using options. You can learn more about this newsletter here:   Short Seller’s Journal information.

Housing Market Supply And Demand: Just The Facts

“Housing – people are insane if they think housing isn’t going to get crushed with rising rates. As you outline often, it’s already happening in ( NY, Den, etc. ) I live in LA and most of my friends/ coworkers are telling me how dumb I am to not jump in. I know to just stay quiet, but I think they are about to walk into a buzz saw (again).” – email from a subscriber

The National Association of Realtors reports that December  existing home sales fell more than the NAR led its Wall Street lap-dogs to believe they would decline.   Larry Yun, the NAR’s market elf, has been blaming phlegmatic housing sales over the last two years on low inventory. There’s only one problem with this assertion: it’s not true based on historical data:

The chart above is drawn from data that the Fed, for some inexplicable reason, purged from its FRED database.  It illustrates the inverse relationship – generally – that exists between inventory and sales.   The bigger factor driving the economics of the housing market right now is the deteriorating financial condition of any household that might want to buy a house.  The Fed and Government have largely exhausted the population of would-be mortgagees that can make a 0-3% down payment on a conventional mortgage plus carry the monthly burden of servicing that mortgage.  The tax advantage from deducting real estate taxes was stripped from the equation.

I suspect the Fed is getting worried about the housing market. The Fed’s QE holdings rose $5 billion last week. The entire increase is attributable to an increase in mortgage holdings. Not only is the Fed not reducing its balance sheet, it felt compelled to inject capital into the mortgage market.

One thing to keep in mind. A large percentage of homes purchased and financed with 0-3% down payment mortgages in the last couple of years are underwater. When a buyer puts almost nothing down on a mortgage-financed home, the transaction costs all-in are about 10% of the value of the home. These homes are underwater at closing. Except in certain bubble areas, homes have not appreciated in value enough to make up for the amount that low down payment buyers are underwater when they closed. When the stock market eventually tanks, it will take home values down at least 30-40%, and possibly more.

Just like any market bubble, I believe the housing market is reaching the point of exhaustion. As households continue to get squeezed financially, there will be a lot of homes put on the market hoping for last year’s price. As I’ve mentioned before, when home prices are rising quickly, there’s an oversupply of buyers. When home prices start to drop, the buyers disappear. When prices are rising continuously, it’s very easy to sell a home. When prices begin to fall, it becomes difficult to sell a home. It’s been very easy to sell a home for the last 5+ years. I believe it’s going to start to become difficult to sell a home at current general price levels. The smartest sellers will price their home to move. This will begin the process of “re-pricing” the market lower, which in turn could trigger a flood of flipper homes to hit the market – just like 2007/2008.

Greenwich, Connecticut housing values are down 20%. Greenwich would be the “poster child” for the high-end housing market. NYC values are starting to get hammered. For taxpayers who itemize, the new tax law limits the deduction for State, local, sales and property taxes to $10,000. This will hammer the high-end market, which in turn will put downward pressure on everything below it.

The commentary above is an excerpt from the latest weekly Short Seller’s Journal.  If you are interested in learning how to make money from the most overvalued stock market in U.S. history, visit this link for more information:  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information.

The Big Short 2.0: The NAR Whiffed Badly This Month

Based on the National Association of Realtor’s “Seasonally Adjusted” Annualized Rate (SAAR) metric, home sales were said to have ticked up 0.7% in September from August. On a SAAR basis they declined 1.5% from September 2016.  In his customary effort to glaze the pig’s lips with lipstick, NAR chief “economist” and salesman, Larry Yun, asserted that sales would have been stronger but for the hurricanes that hit Florida and Texas.

This guy should do some better vetting of the data before he tries to spin a story. The Houston Association of Realtors was out a week earlier stating that Houston home sales were up 14% in September from August and up 4.2% from September 2016. Yun’s fairytale is a stunning contrast to what is being reported from Houston. But it illustrates the fact that the data on housing the NAR reports is highly suspect.

As I’ve been detailing for years, the NAR’s existing home sales report is highly manipulated and flawed.  It works well for the industry and the media in rising markets, but the real estate market has rolled over and is preparing to head south.  Likely rather quickly.  As it turns out, the September existing home sales report released Friday reinforces my view that the market is starting to topple over.  I go over the details in the next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal, with a couple examples which foreshadow a collapse in the over $1,000,000 price segment of the market.  This in turn will affect the entire market.  I always suspected that the “Big Short 2.0” would start at the high-end.  An example outside of Colorado can found here:  Greenwich Sales Plunge.

Four weeks ago I presented a housing-related stock as a short good idea.  The stock is down nearly 10% in four weeks.   How can this be?  Isn’t the housing market hot?  It will be going much lower.  This week I’ll be featuring a housing industry supplier stock that went parabolic and will soon go “cliff dive.”  If you want to find out more about this subscription service, click here:  Short Seller’s Journal info.

I love your Short Seller’s Journal. Keep up the great work – recent new subscriber

Peak Housing Bubble: 2008 Deja Vu All Over Again

Existing Home Sales were released Wednesday and the NAR’s seasonally adjusted annualized rate metric was down 1.7% from July. July was down 1.3% from June. The NAR’s SAAR metric is at its lowest rate since last August. Naturally the hurricane that hit Houston is being attributed as the primary culprit for the lower sales rate. Interestingly, the “not seasonally adjusted” monthly number for the South region was higher in August than in July. Moreover, I’m sure the NAR’s statistical “wizards” were told to “adjust” for Houston. So I’m not buying the excuse.

As for the NAR’s inventory narrative, that’s a bunch of horse hooey. Recall the chart I’ve posted a couple times in previous issues which shows that sales volume is inversely correlated with inventory – this is 17 years of data:

In other words, sales volume increases as inventory declines and sales volume declines as inventory rises. This is intuitive as prospective buyers will get desperate and rush to secure a purchase when inventory is low. Conversely,when a prospective buyer sees inventory climbing, the tendency will be to wait to see if prices come down.

It’s disingenuous for the NAR to claim that low inventory is affecting sales. Based on its own calculus, there’s 4.2 months of supply right now. This is up from 3.8 months in January. In fact, from December through March, months supply was said to have been well under 4 months. And yet, the monthly SAAR sales for each month December through March averaged 4.5% above the level just reported for August. In other words, the excuse put forth by the NAR’s chief “economist” is undermined by the NAR’s own numbers. However, given that the inventory expressed as “months supply” has been rising since April, it should be no surprise that sales are declining. This is exactly what would have been predicted by the 17 years of data in the sales vs inventory chart above.

The other statistic that undermines the “low inventory is affecting sales” propaganda is housing starts. Housing starts peaked in November 2016 and have been in a downtrend since then. Robert Toll (Toll Brothers – TOL) stated directly in his earnings commentary a couple weeks ago that “supply is not a problem.” Furthermore, DR Horton – the largest homebuilder in the country) is carrying about the same amount of inventory now as was carrying at the end of 2007 – around $8.5 billion. The average home price is about the same then as now, which means it is carrying about the same number of homes in inventory. It’s unit sales run-rate was slightly higher in 2007. Starting in 2008, DHI began writing down its inventory in multi-billion dollar chunks. Sorry Larry (NAR chief “economist” aka “salesman”), there are plenty of newly built homes available for purchase.

The Fannie and Freddie 3% down payment, reduced mortgage insurance fee program that has been in effect since January 2015 has “sucked” in most of the first-time buyers who can qualify for a mortgage under those sub-prime quality terms. If the housing market cheerleaders stated that “there is a shortage of homes for which subprime buyers can qualify to buy,” that’s an entirely different argument.

Housing price affordability has hit an all-time low. Again, this is because of the rampant home price inflation generated by the Fed’s monetary policy and the Government’s mortgage programs. The Government up to this point has done everything except subsidize down payments in order to give subprime quality borrowers the ability to take down a mortgage for which they can make (barely) the monthly mortgage payment. At this stage, anyone with a sub-620 FICO score who is unable to make a 3% down payment and who does not generate enough income to qualify under the 50% DTI parameter should not buy a home. They will default anyway and the taxpayer will be on the hook. As it is now, the Government’s de facto sub-prime mortgage programs are going to end badly.

Speaking of the 50% DTI, that is one of the qualification parameters “loosened” up by Fannie Mae. A 50% DTI means pre-tax income as a percentage of monthly debt payments. Someone with a 50% DTI is thereby using close to 70% or more of their after-tax cash flow to service debt. This is really not much different from the economics of the “exotic” mortgages underwritten in the last housing bubble. As the economy worsens, there will be sudden wave of first-time buyer Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage defaults. I would bet that day of reckoning is not too far off in the future.

The Fed has fueled the greatest housing price inflation in history. In may cities, housing prices have gone parabolic. But to make matters worse, this is not being fueled by demand which exceeds supply.

After all, we know that homebuilders have been cutting back on new home starts for several months now. Price inflation is the predominant characteristic of this housing bubble. The price rise since 2012 has been a function of the Fed’s enormous monetary stimulus and not supply/demand-driven transactions.

The effect of the Fed’s money printing and the Government’s mortgage guarantee programs has been to fill the “void” left by the demise of the private-issuer subprime mortgages in the mid-2000’s housing bubble. The FHA has been underwriting 3.5% down payment mortgages since 2008. In 2008, the FHA’s share of the mortgage market was 2%. Today it’s about 20%. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac allow 3% down payment mortgages for people with credit scores as low as 620. 620 is considered sub-prime. On a case-by-case basis, they’ll approve mortgage applications with sub-620 credit scores. Oh, and about that 3% down payment. The Government will allow “sweat” equity as part of the down payment from “moderate to low income” borrowers. Moreover, the cash portion of the down payment can come from gifts, grants or “community seconds.” A “community second” is a subordinated (second-lien) mortgage that is issued to the buyer to use as a source of cash for the down payment.

Again, I want to emphasize this point because it’s a fact that you’ll never hear discussed by the mainstream media:  The Government mortgage programs resemble and have replaced the reckless “exotic” mortgage programs of the mid-2000’s housing bubble.

To compound the problem, most big cities are being hit with an avalanche of new apartment buildings.  In Denver, the newer “seasoned” buildings are loading up front-end incentives to compete for tenants.  There’s another tidal wave of new inventory that will hit the market over the next six months.  This scene is being replayed in all of the traditional bubble cities.   As supply drives down the cost of rent, the millennials who can barely qualify for a mortgage that sucks up more than 50% of their pre-tax income will revert back to renting .  This will in turn drive down the price of homes.

Flippers who are leveraging up to pay top-dollar will get stuck with their attempted housing “day-trade.”  Studies have shown that it was flippers who were unable to unload their homes who triggered the 2008 collapse, as they “jingle-mailed” the keys back to the greedy bankers who funded the “margin debt” for their failed trade.

It may not look exactly the same as late 2007 right now.   But there’s no question that it will be deja vu all over again by this time next year…

The above commentary and analysis is directly from last week’s Short Seller’s Journal. In the latest issue I presented three ways to take advantage of the coming collapse in the housing and mortgage market, one of which is already down 10%.  If you would like to find out more about this service, please click here:  Short Seller’s Journal subscription info.

I look forward to any and every SSJ. Especially at the moment as I really do think your work and thesis on how this plays out is being more than validated at the moment with the ongoing dismal data coming out, both here in the U.K, and in the U.S.   – James

Existing Home Sales Tank This Summer: Fact vs Fiction

Existing home sales declined nearly 2% in June from May on a SAAR basis (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate).   (SAAR is the statistically manipulated metric used by industry organizations and the Government to spin bad monthly economic data into an annualized metric that hides the ugly truth).

Here is the NAR-spun fiction:  “Closings were down in most of the country last month because interested buyers are being tripped up by supply that remains stuck at a meager level and price growth that’s straining their budget…” – Larry Yun chief “economist” for the National Association of Homebuilders.

This has been Yun’s narrative since home sales volume began to decline last year.  His headline mantra of low inventory is mindlessly regurgitated by Wall Street and the financial media. But here’s what the truth looks like (click to enlarge):

Going back to 1999, this data sourced from the Fed, who sourced it from the NAR, shows an inverse correlation between inventory and sales. In other words, low inventory drives sales higher.  Conversely, as inventory rises, sales drops.  You’ll note that the chart does not go past 2015.  This  is because, for some reason, the Fed purged its database of existing home inventory prior to June 2016.  There’s a gap in inventory between mid-2015 and mid-2016.  However, there is this (click to enlarge):

I hate to call Larry Yun a “liar” because it sounds unprofessional. But what else am I supposed to call him when the data completely contradicts the narrative he shovels from his propaganda port-o-let into the public domain? I have no choice.

AS you can see, from 1999 to mid-2015 and from mid-2016 to present, inventory and sales are inversely correlated.

This has been the worst selling season for the housing market’s peak sales months since 2011.  In 2011 the Fed was dumping trillions into the housing market and mortgage finance system.   To make this morning’s report worse, mortgage rates have been declining at a steep rate since the end of December.  Near-record low rates, combined with near-zero percent down payment Government-guaranteed mortgages combined with the lowest credit-approval standards since 2007 combined with the peak selling months should have catapulted home sales much higher this year.

Here’s the problem:  the factors listed above have tapped out the available pool of homebuyers who qualify for a near-zero downpayment, low-credit rating Government-backed mortgage:

The graphic above shows the average household mortgage payment as a percentage of disposable personal income (after-tax income). The graphic above is for those households with 20% down payment mortgages. As you can see, that ratio is at an all-time high. It’s far worse for households with 3% down payment mortgages.  Either the Government will have to roll-out a program that directly subsidizes the households who still want to over-pay for a home but can’t afford the mortgage payment let alone the cost of home ownership – i.e. helicopter money – or the housing the market is getting ready to head south.  This won’t end well either way.

As for the inventory narrative.  New homebuilders are bulging with inventory.  How do I know? Because I look at the actual balance sheet numbers of most of the publicly traded homebuilders every quarter.  Newly built homes sitting in various stages of completion or sitting complete but completely empty often are not listed in the MLS system.  There’s a rather large “shadow inventory” of new homes gathering dust.  This fact is reflected in the fact that the rate of housing starts has been declining for most of the past 8 months.   There’s plenty of new home inventory and homebuilders are open to price negotiation. This is evident from the declining gross margins at almost every homebuilder.

This is the type of analysis that is presented in the Short Seller’s Journal.  I research and dig up data and present facts that will never be reported by Wall Street, industry associations and the financial media.  This is why my subscribers were short Beazer (BZH) at $14.99 on May 21st.  It’s currently at $13.39 but has been as low as $12.  It’s headed much lower.  Despite the Dow et al hitting new highs, there’s a large universe of stocks that are plumbing 52-week and all-time lows.  You can find out details about the SSJ here: Short Seller’s Journal information.   In the latest issue I present an in-depth analysis of Netflix’s accounting and show why it’s a Ponzi scheme.

The Housing Market Bubble Is Popping

As with all other highly manipulated data, the financial media has a blind bias toward the “bullish” story attached to the housing market. Understandable, as the National Association of Realtors spends more on special interest interest lobbying in Congress than any other financial sector lobby interest, including Wall Street banks.

New home sales were down last month, according to the Census Bureau, 11.3% and missed Wall Street’s soothsayer estimates by a rural mile. Strange, that report, given that new homebuilder sentiment is bubbling along a record highs. Existing home sales were down 2.3%. You’ll note that the numbers reported by the Census Bureau and NAR are “SAAR” – seasonally adjusted annualized rates. There is considerable room for data manipulation and regression model bias when a monthly data sample is “seasonally adjusted/manipulated” and then annualized.  You’ll also note that mortgage rates have dropped considerably from their December highs and May is one of the seasonally strongest months for home sales.

It’s becoming pretty clear to me that the housing market’s “Roman candle” has lost its upward thrust and is poised to fall back to earth. I believe it could happen shockingly fast. Fannie Mae released its home purchase sentiment index, which FNM says is the most detailed of its kind.

The report contained some “eyebrow-raising” results. The percentage of Americans who say it’s a good time buy a home net of those who say it’s a bad time to buy a home fell 8 percent to 27% – a record low for this survey. At the same time the percentage of those who say its a good time sell net of those who say its a bad to sell rose to 32% – also a new survey high. In other words, homeowners on average are better sellers than buyers of homes relative to anytime since Fannie Mae has been compiling these statistics (June 2010).

Currently the prevailing propaganda promoted by the National Association of Realtors’ chief “economist” is that home sales are sagging because of “low inventory.” He’s been all over this fairytale like a dog in heat. The problem for him is that the narrative does not fit the actual data – data compiled by the National Association of Realtors – thereby rendering it “fake news:”

The graph above shows home inventory plotted against existing home sales from 1999 to 2015 (note:  when I tried to update the graph to include current data, I discovered that the Fed had removed all existing home sales data prior to 2013).   As you can see, up until Larry Yun decided to make stuff up about the factors which drive home sales, there is an inverse correlation between inventory and the level of home sales (i.e. low inventory = rising sales and vice versa).   I’m not making this up, it’s displayed right there in the data that used to be accessible at the St Louis Fed website.

Furthermore, if you “follow the money” in terms of new homebuilder new housing starts, you’ll discover that housing starts have dropped three months in a row. The last time this occurred was in June 2008.   IF low inventory is the cause of sagging home sales – as Larry Yun would like you to believe – then how come new homebuilders are starting less homes? If there’s a true shortage of homes, homebuilders should be starting  as many new units as they can as rapidly  as possible.

Although the Dow Jones Home Construction Index is near a 52-week high – it’s still 40% below it’s all-time high hit in 2005.  Undoubtedly it’s being dragged reluctantly higher by the S&P 500, Dow, Nasdaq and Tesla.   Despite this, I presented a homebuilder short idea to subscribers of the Short Seller’s Journal that is down 13.6% since  I presented it May 19th.  It’s been down as much as 24.2% in that time period.   It is headed to $7 or lower, likely before Christmas.  I also  presented another not well followed idea that could easily get cut in half by the end of the year.

The next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal will focus on the housing market.  I’ll discuss housing market data that tends to get covered up by Wall Street and the media. I have been collecting some compelling data to support the argument that the housing market is rolling over…you can find out more about subscribing here:  Short Seller’s Journal info.

In the latest issue released yesterday, I also reviewed Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods:

I just read it and the analysis on Amazon is awesome. This has the potential to be the short of year when the hype wanes and reality sets in – subscriber, Andreas

Toll Brothers Stock Jumps On Declining Revenues And Earnings

Toll Brothers reported its Fiscal Q1 earnings this morning.  Year over for the quarter: Revenues declined nearly 1%, operating income plunged 46.8%, net income dropped 4.1%.   Net income was boosted by the reliable accounting management technique of reducing the estimated GAAP “effective” tax rate, which enables any management to goal-seek a specific net income number.  In this case the goal is to “beat” the Street.  Margins were down across the board.

Oh ya, TOL pulled another stunt that homebuilders use to pump up GAAP net income:  it increased the amount of interest it capitalized by $6 million dollars. This has the effect of boosting operating income by $6 million compared to the same quarter last year because it reduces the amount of GAAP interest expense by the amount that was capitalized. It did this despite a drop in sales.   Its net income would have missed the Street by a suburban mile if it had just maintained the same rate of interest expense capitalized.

For this, the stock jumped up 6% this morning at the open.

The Company blamed the drop in operating income and margins on inventory write-downs.  But these have been occurring every quarter recently and will of course continue going forward.  That write-down only explains $4 million of the $44 million plunge in operating income.

There’s so much more going in TOL’s numbers which point to the continued economic deterioration in its business model.  I will be reviewing this further in this week’s issue of the Short Seller’s Journal, including which put options TOL I bought this morning.

Too many layoffs and store closure news to mention but I’ve realized that there are a lot of school-district (including teachers) layoffs and colleges, or even hospitals staff layoffs. CSX just posted 1000 management level position cuts – link.  By the way, thanks for the Short Seller’s journal, very informative. – note yesterday from a subscriber

Fake News Alert: Existing Home Sales Report

I’m going to have to throw a flag on the existing home sales report for November published today by the National Association of Realtors.    The NAR would have us believe that home sales occurred in November at 5.6mm annualized rate for the month, up 15.4% from November 2015 and up .7% from October.   I will point out that, of course, the orignal report for October was revised lower.  But who pays attention to those details?

Take a look at this graphic sourced from Zerohedge which shows existing home sales plotted vs mortgage applications back to 2013:

I hate to be cynical, or accuse anyone of presenting “fake news,” but the mortgage application data completely contradicts the NAR’s “seasonally adjusted, annualized rate” interpretation of the data it collected. Existing home sales are based on closings (escrow clears), which means the sales report for November is based on contracts signed primarily from October and some in late Sept/early November. But mortgage applications began dropping off a cliff in late August. Clearly the NAR’s seasonal adjustment interpretation of the data is highly suspect.

Looking at the data itself  – LINK – you’ll note that the NAR’s data sampling shows that home sales dropped 6.7% from October.  Yet, it’s “seasonal adjustments” suggest that home sales increased from October to November, despite a massive plunge in mortgage applications during the period in which contracts would have been signed for November closings.

I’ve emailed the NAR several times over the years to have them explain their seasonal adjustments calculus.  Every time I am politely declined.  I will note that they use the same regression analysis model used by the Census Bureau.

The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonal adjustments, which are determined by using the X-12 Variant created by the Census Bureau, are then used to factor out seasonal variances in resale activity.

They do at least disclose that, although, if anything, that fact detracts from the credibility of their calculations.  Of course, if I were looking for credibility, I would not advertise that I use the statistical guesstimate package created by the Government…

I would suggest that a year from now, anyone who looks back at the data produced today by the NAR will discover that the number was revised lower by a significant amount.  But who looks at revisions?  The Government and industry promotion organizations know this.  It doesn’t matter how far off the rails their initial “seasonally adjusted” data strays, as long as they revise them at some point in the future, when no one is looking, it gives them plausible deniability if they are ever held accountable.

In the next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal, I’m going to present a comprehensive analysis on the housing market and the damage already inflicted on it from a 1% rise in mortgage rates.  Despite the fact that S&P and Dow have been pushing all-time highs almost on a daily basis, the DJ Home Construction index is down over 11% from its July 52-week high.  I will show why in this next issue.  You can access more information and subscribe to the SSJ using this link:  Short Seller’s Journal.

 

More On The Government’s Fraudulent New Home Sales Report

This is from a reader who posted this comment:

I live in “the south” in a very very nice area by the beach.  A “developer” built over 20 new homes and purchased several more lots to build on.  His last home sold 6 months ago and the rest stay EMPTY!  Lock box, not sold, and some for sale signs have been taken off to decrease competition from the other people trying to sell their home.

The average asking price is $500,000 .  The lots are cleared but undeveloped. He put a sign up on one lot to show the home that “could” be built there IF anyone purchased it.
In short… IT’S OVER! WE’RE BACK TO 2007 LOOKING DOWN AT A DEEPER AND STEEPER DECLINE!

I’m beginning to think that the Census Bureau now includes “intent to sell” as a “sale” because I’m sure there’s a lot of people who are thinking of selling of in order  to “get ahead of the market.”  Sorry, it’s too late.