Farewell to 2009, Welcome to 2010 and a New Decade

Farewell to 2009, Welcome to 2010 and a New Decade

With 2009 moving into the rear view mirror, there has been much speculation among agents, clients and the press about 2010 and what portends in the housing market. Inman News recently published a sobering assessment of the events that will impact real estate markets in 2010, from increasing mortgage rates, tightening FHA credit standards, high unemployment and the expiration April 30th of the buyer tax credits.

Real estate agents and brokers typically look forward to spring as the season where homebuyers come out in force and sales pick up.
In 2010, the uncertainty created by the financial crisis makes it harder to bank on a seasonal uptick in sales — particularly in markets hit hard by unemployment.
Further complicating matters down the road are three potentially destabilizing events that are expected to occur in a tight timeframe during the spring buying season:
* At the end of March, the Federal Reserve is expected to wind up a $1.25 trillion program that’s kept mortgage rates low.
* The Federal Housing Administration’s announcement that it plans to tighten underwriting standards could take effect as soon as April.
* Congress is expected to allow the newly expanded homebuyer tax credit to expire, closing the door on buyers not under contract by April 30 and closing by June 30.
Economists must rely on a certain amount of guesswork in predicting what impact these changes will have when drawing up their forecasts for 2010. Many expect unemployment won’t peak until next year, and it’s almost certain mortgage rates can only go up from record lows.
But housing was hammered so badly, and for so long, that most forecasters expect housing prices to stabilize and sales to pick up in 2010, even if economic growth doesn’t spring back as fiercely as it usually does in a recovery.
“We are definitely in a recovery now, but this has been such a severe recession — we think the financial crisis and the credit retrenchment that’s occurred means this is going to be a fairly anemic recovery,” said Michael Fratantoni, the Mortgage Bankers Association’s vice president of research.
America has moved from a manufacturing to service-based economy, meaning “there’s not as much potential for a snapback” from a recession like the Reagan-era boom of the 1980s, Fratantoni said.

These events certainly will impact markets nationwide, but each area will respond differently. Many of us think that buyers will continue to feel urgency in Sonoma County to avoid rising rates and the expiring tax credit. Certainly, inventory is in very short supply and buyer activity has been surprisingly strong during the holiday period.
Plus, Sonoma County will continue to be perceived as a more affordable alternative to housing in Marin County and the rest of the Bay Area to the south. No one knows for sure how the shadow inventory of foreclosed homes will affect our markets. How many of them will reach the market, and at what rate?
What do you think 2010 will bring?
And most of all, Happy New Year! Thank you for your business, referrals and friendship in 2009. I look forward to working with you in 2010. No matter what condition the market, there are opportunities in real estate if you have patience, think long term and have good planning on your side! If you have any questions about buying or selling a home, please contact me and I will be glad to help you!

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