RealtyTrac has released a new report that identifies potential bubble markets based upon three early warning signs.
Signs of a possible housing bubble include the following:
– A market that was less affordable in October 2014 than its peak price during the previous bubble between 2005 and 2008
– A market that was less affordable in October 2014 compared to its historical average since 2000
– A market with a rising foreclosure rate on loans originated this year compared to last year
Overall, the price of a median-priced home required 26% of median income in October in 475 counties nationwide.
This compares to a historical average of 28% going back to January 2000, and is still well below the 41% average seen in each county’s peak month during the most recent housing bubble.
In fact, just six counties were deemed less affordable in October than during their peak between 2005 and 2008, thanks in part to higher incomes and low mortgage rates.
The short list includes Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Travis County, Texas, Jefferson County, Alabama, Brazos County, Texas, Allegan County, Michigan, and Montgomery County, Tennessee.
These counties correspond to the metro areas of Boston, Austin, Birmingham, College Station, Grand Rapids, and Clarksville.
However, 21% of counties nationwide are now less affordable than their historic averages, including hot spots like Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, Dallas, San Antonio, and even parts of Detroit.
Meanwhile, 37% of counties are reporting rising foreclosure rates on loans originated this year compared to last, including places like Chicago, San Diego, Brooklyn, Miami, Las Vegas, and Seattle.
And six percent (30%) of counties are both unaffordable by historic measures and experiencing rising foreclosure rates on recent loans.
This combined problem list includes places like the San Francisco metro area, Suffolk County, Orange County, Honolulu, Denver, the St. George, Utah metro area, and the Bend, Oregon metro area.
RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist noted in the report that affordability and foreclosure rate by loan vintage are key metrics that help determine if a certain market is at risk of another pricing bubble.
He added that about 20% of markets have now surpassed their historical affordability norms, a “strong sign” that a bubble is forming or that appreciation will soon plateau until wages have a chance to catch up.
The fact that foreclosure rates are rising on new loans could be an indication that affordability is once again a concern as buyers stretch themselves too thin.
12% of Counties Have Reached New Home Price Peaks
In October, a total of 58 counties had higher median home prices than their prior peaks seen in 2005 to 2008.
The usual suspects made this list too, including San Fran, New York, Boston, and Denver, along with Charlotte, Raleigh, and Buffalo.
However, low interest rates are keeping homes in these highly sought-after areas affordable. But if rates rise and home prices continue to climb, the story could change in a hurry.
But nearly half (48%) of counties nationwide are still historically affordable and experiencing flat or declining foreclosure rates. So the whole nation isn’t yet at risk of another housing bubble.
The most affordable regions include Lansing, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Buffalo.
There’s clearly some divergence in terms of affordability and home price peaks. Put another way, some areas of the country are experiencing new all-time highs but are still historically affordable.
The concerning thing is the unaffordable places, especially at a time when interest rates have never been lower. It doesn’t bode well for them or those at new highs, unless interest rates stay low forever.