Why the Housing Sector Should Hold Up

While the COVID-19 shutdowns have hit a lot of real estate sectors hard, Pratima Damani, CEO and founder of SP Group, doesn’t think housing will experience the same level of distress.

“We feel that structurally the housing market is in a sound position today,” Damani says. “If you look at all the underlying factors for the housing market, you’re not seeing values plummeting. You still have a very low inventory of home and record low mortgage rates. Credit quality is not compromised.”

The economy is at a different place structurally than it was in 2008 when many borrowers were underwater. Now, there is a lot of equity in the market.

“There is a significant uptick in the home equity line of credit financing,” Damani says. “People are addressing their liquidity issues with equity in their homes.”

That doesn’t mean everything is bright and sunny. Despite June’s numbers, unemployment is still a huge issue. “This is a different crisis [than 2008],” Damani says. “Because the problem is different, the solution needs to be oriented to address the problem.”

The SP Group has done analytics on the forbearance and unemployment levels and found that with the right policy options, the worst-case scenario for the housing market can be avoided. Damani thinks officials can develop better relief packages than they put together in 2008 that won’t provide as much risk to taxpayers. 

Damani suggests that policymakers extend the foreclosure moratorium and structure loan modification programs that involve private capital, among other things.

“The policy options should stay super laser-focused on addressing this short-term liquidity crisis,” Damani says.

While gridlock in Washington could limit new relief packages, Damani thinks indicators are pointing towards another extension for forbearance packages on federally backed mortgages. 

“I think they’re going to have to kick the can a little bit further down,” Damani says. “It’s important that the forbearance extension is exactly what we need to give borrowers a break with the income volatility that they face right now.”

Stretching the analogy into commercial, Damani says there is still a lack of overall inventory for apartments. 

“Structurally, I don’t think multifamily is any different than the single-family market,” Damani says. “I think multifamily typically runs parallel to single-family.”

Damani envisions forbearance packages for multifamily and even commercial. “In the hospitality and retail industry where there is real distress, I think forbearances are likely going to continue,” she says.

Without these forbearances, Damani thinks the economy will suffer from a rash of business failures and bankruptcies, in addition to massive unemployment.

“At this point, I don’t think the economy can accommodate huge numbers of bankruptcies and business failures,” Damani says. “I think they [legislators] are going to try to do what they can, at least in the short term. And by short term, I mean three to six months to try to save those businesses that have the potential to be saved.”

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