Thursday, June 3, 2021

Declining Buyers/Renters, Increasing Housing Supply = Soaring Home Valuations (WTF???)

As the old adage goes, real estate is all about location, location, location. Given this, I wanted to offer a regional and state by state view of the situation, where declining total populations, large declines among those employed, and declining under 60 year old populations are taking place parallel to a resurgence in interest rate driven home valuations and building.

First, annual change in regional total populations. Growth in all four regions is decelerating but outright declines are now underway in the Northeast and Midwest.

Annual population change (millions), by region over the last decade. Decelerating growth and outright declines.
Northeast
Year over year change in total population, employees. Long decelerating population growth in the Northeast has turned to an outright declining population. The growth of the population is always a governor of the potential growth of those employed.
Year over year change in under versus over 60 year old population. On an annual basis, the Northeast under 60 year old population is now declining by about a half million, or equivalent to losing a city about the size of Baltimore annually. This working age depopulation reduces the quantity of potential employees, potential home buyers/renters while the quantity of elderly (potential home sellers) soars.
Northeast, putting it together.
  • declining total population
  • declining under 60 year old population (potential buyers) versus soaring elderly population (potential sellers)
  • large decline among employed (potential buyers/renters) and shrinking future quantity of potential employees
  • record low mortgage rates
  • accelerating building activity and rising number of total housing units
  • rising home prices
Midwest
Year over year change in total Midwest population, employees. Decades of decelerating growth have turned to what is likely to be decades of population declines.
Year over year change in Midwest under 60 versus over 60 year old population. Midwest under 60 year old population is declining by about 350 thousand annually, or equivalent to losing a city the size of Cleveland annually while the 60+ year old population grows by about the same.
Midwest putting it together...
  • declining total population
  • declining under 60 year old population (potential buyers) versus soaring elderly population (potential sellers)
  • large decline among employed (potential buyers/renters) and shrinking future quantity of potential employees
  • record low mortgage rates
  • accelerating building activity and rising total number of housing units
  • elevated but stable home prices over last decade
West
Year over year change in total population, employees. Accelerating deceleration of growth...and potential growth.
Year over year change in under 60 versus over 60 year old populations. Under 60 year old population now falling by about 200 thousand, or equivalent to losing a city the size of Tempe annually. Again, this accelerating deceleration is also an accelerating deceleration of potential future growth...or likelihood for outright declines among employees, consumers, homebuyers versus soaring quantities of elderly.
Pulling it together
  • decelerating total population growth
  • declining under 60 year old population (potential buyers) versus soaring elderly population (potential sellers)
  • large decline among employed (potential buyers/renters) and decline potential for future employment growth
  • record low mortgage rates
  • significantly accelerating building activity and rising total number of homes
  • soaring home prices
South
Year over year change in total population, employees. The South is the primary source of US population growth, although deceleration is also apparent here.
Year over year change in under 60 versus over 60 year olds. The decelerating growth of under 60 year olds means a significant deceleration of potential employment growth, even in the South.
Pulling it together
  • decelerating total population growth
  • decelerating under 60 year old population (potential buyers) versus soaring elderly population (potential sellers)
  • large decline among employed (potential buyers/renters) and decelerating potential for future employment growth
  • record low mortgage rates
  • significantly accelerating building activity and rising total number of homes
  • soaring home prices
State by State Basis
The number of  states experiencing outright depopulation is soaring....and the current 17 states depopulating as of 2020 are likely to be joined by another 13 states transitioning into depopulation by year end 2021.
States experiencing depopulation in 2020.
States with minimal population growth...likely moving to outright depopulation in 2021.
States still growing but with decelerating growth.
States with population growth in excess of 1%. Only Idaho and Arizona seeing accelerating growth at present.
However, by my quick calculations as of 2020, there are 38 states with declining under 60 year old populations...and only 12 states that continue to have increasing working age populations, potential buyers, and rising organic demand. But the number of state still persisting with working age population growth will be falling to single digits in the next couple of years.

Breaking these dynamics down, on a state by state basis.

California
Year over year change in total California population and employees. Decelerating population growth has turned to depopulation.
Year over year change in California under and over 60 year old population. The total population declines seen in 2020 shouldn't have been a surprise as the inverting demographic pyramid has long been underway in California. Clearly, the total population decline will be persistent and the potential for employment growth will be limited by the declining working age population.
Soaring California home prices and rising building activity (thanks to Federal Reserve driven consistent decline in mortgage rates) against the backdrop of secular depopulation. Experts explain that the rising housing price are due to a housing shortage rather than a speculative frenzy...but the data suggests otherwise.
Michigan
Year over year change in total population, employees.
Year over year change in under 60 versus over 60 year olds.
Michigan rising home prices and rising building activity versus declining total population, working age population, and employees.
West Virginia
Year over year change in total population, employees.
Year over year change in under 60 versus over 60 year old population.
West Virginia is experiencing rising building activity and consistently rising home values on falling numbers of employees, falling total populations, and falling working age populations. The term FUBAR seems appropriate here.
Illinois
Year over year change in total population and employees.
Year over year change in under 60 vs. over 60 year old population.
Illinois is a poster child for the Fed's impact on housing valuations against all organic fundamentals. Rather than the cost of shelter reflecting it's fair market value...it reflects what the Fed and banks need it to be...otherwise the Fed and banks holding these mortgages are sitting on worthless paper that likely should be marked to zero.
What is the Federal Reserve's role in pushing housing prices higher? The Fed sets the federal funds rate (overnight basis of lending) which is the basis for the rest of the interest rate curve. The Fed's ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) coupled with the Fed's purchasing of US Treasury's and mortgage backed securities has backstopped the housing market. What private entity would buy 30 year mortgages in places that are currently experiencing depopulation and will see large scale depopulation over the lifespan of that loan??? Despite the majority of America that is either seeing outright depopulation or depopulation among under 60 year old populations...demand for housing is soaring...just like the Fed's holdings of MBS and long Treasury bonds.
The soaring housing demand is real but for all the wrong reasons. It is not really an inadequate supply of housing but an oversupply of liquidity with a shortage of potential assets from which to earn a "safe" return. Prior to 2008, retirees and those approaching retirement would tilt their portfolios toward bonds to lessen the volatility of "riskier" stocks. But with the Fed's decade+ of ZIRP (artificially collapsing bond / CD rates), the soaring population of soon to be retired / those in retirement turned their gaze toward RE. Demand for 5%, 6%, 7% "safe" returns provided by being a landlord replaced bonds. Foreigners, speculators, flippers all followed the rising trend.

The Federal Reserve driven real estate wealth effect has homeowners believing they are sitting on real wealth as their home value soars and mortgage rates plummet. The Fed, just like Bernie Madoff, is running a Ponzi whereby homeowners believe themselves to be rich (think HELOC or reverse mortgage or MEW). The only difference between Madoff and the Fed is that the Fed can print all the dollars it wants (inflation be damned)...if/when need be, the Fed (or some tasked entity) is likely to begin buying up excess housing with money from its printing press (even if it's only to demolish it). This will likely begin in rural states/areas all over America where the depopulation is most severe.

But the worst impacted by this Fed Ponzi are young adults. They have little to no assets (rising with the Fed's flood of liquidity). They are drowning in soaring rents, predatory lending for education, costs of daycare, insurance, co-pays, and general inflation. They are getting more education, taking on more debt, and having less to show for it. This has resulted in a dramatic rise in the age of first marriages, collapsing fertility rates and births.
Essentially, the farther the Fed (and CB's worldwide) go with its asset inflation scheme (the basis of the domestic and global inflation spike alongside an global shutdown/restart of production), the lower the future population sinks...and the more impactful and powerful the Fed becomes.

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