The Great Debate UK

from James Saft:

Britain eats (leverages) its young

James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Four years, several failed banks and at least one global recession later, Britain has finally discovered what its young people need: 19-1 leverage.

Britain has announced a new housing initiative, the centerpiece of which is a plan to entice first-time buyers into buying newly-built properties with as little as 5 percent down.

Under the plan both builders and the government would contribute funds to partially indemnify lenders against what I am betting are the inevitable losses. Borrowers, who are almost by definition younger and less well off, will still bear all losses, but will be rewarded with the chance to take out the kind of loan which has proven time and again to be a bad idea.

This is utterly wrongheaded -- the best possible thing that can happen for first-time buyers, and arguably for most Britons, is for housing prices to fall to a level commensurate with earnings.

from Breakingviews:

Complacency seeps in as Fed stops buying MBS

By Agnes Crane and Antony Currie

Investors seem remarkably relaxed about the end of the U.S. Federal Reserve's $1.25 trillion program to buy mortgage-backed bonds guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Just a few months ago many worried that, without the central bank's continued intervention, home loans could become expensive enough to scare off prospective buyers and send the market into a renewed slump. Now they're regarding the Fed's exit as little more than a minor blip. But that could be a sign that complacency is seeping back into the financial system.

from The Great Debate:

A brief, but welcome recovery in housing

jamessaft1.jpg(James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Activity in the U.S. housing market has bottomed - a huge plus for the economy - but a recovery in prices will not be sustained and the threat from real estate to bank capital remains acute.

We are over the worst, but only because of massive official support, support that will soon ebb. That could lead to a relapse, especially among more expensive houses, but nothing along the lines of what we have suffered so far.

from The Great Debate:

Learning to love falling house prices

Christopher Swann-- Christopher Swann is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

Optimism has been all but extinguished from the U.S. housing market.

The number of Americans lining up for new home loans is shrinking again, according to Wednesday's release from the Mortgage Bankers Association, and the best that can be said of homebuilding is that it has stabilized at almost 80 percent below its peak.

With no end in sight to falling prices, perhaps we should look on the bright side. Indeed, there are three good reasons why sliding prices are not such a bad thing.

The truth about house prices


david-kuo_motley-foolthumbnail- David Kuo is director of financial website The Motley Fool. The opinions expressed are his own.-

The housing market is probably one of the most keenly followed markets in Britain. Every month we are hit between the eyes with no fewer than eight separate indices that provide pointers to the state of play in the property market. These include supply side figures from Rightmove, demand side numbers from Nationwide and mixed-adjusted indices from the Department of Communities and Local Government.

from The Great Debate:

An emerging opportunity in U.S. housing

James Saft Great Debate -- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --

Deep breath. Ok, here goes: For the first time in a very long time U.S. housing might actually be a reasonable buy on a five-year view.

As a long-time housing bear and someone who believes there is still considerable pain to come in the U.S. economy and banking system that is quite a hard thing to say.

from The Great Debate:

Fishing for the housing bottom in San Diego

-- James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own --
When prophetic long time bears turn a bit cuddly, it is usually best to take notice.  A real estate maven who rejoices in the "nom-de-blog" of Professor Piggington has now, after five years of correctly shouting bubble, labelled San Diego housing prices "reasonable" based on the latest available housing data.

Remember, San Diego has been, along with Phoenix, Las Vegas and parts of Florida, among the most bubbleicious markets in the U.S., and the massive busts there still represent a huge problem for bank balance sheets, for employment and for the U.S. economy generally.

from UK News:

Housing market: what is your prediction?

One thing looks to be sure this year - the housing market has further to fall. Some of the gloomiest predictions are for a further 20 percent slump before a recovery may set in.

Our own Reuters poll of 37 analysts at UK banks, published today, predicts that prices are likely to drop by about 11 percent this year and that it will take until 2010 before it gets better.

Britain faces recession without housing ATM


James Saft is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

james-saft1Even in the good times, many British consumers were borrowing against their houses just to fund routine consumption, indicating a big hit to come for retail sales and for the banks who hold the loans.

With house prices falling rapidly and mortgage debt tougher to get, it is no surprise that homeowners are less able and inclined to borrow against their houses in order to spend.