Tags: Baker | housing | banks | lending

Economist Baker: Housing Recovery Curbed by Banks

Friday, 21 Sep 2012 07:58 AM

By John Morgan

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Tough lending standards by banks are a major headwind for a still-weak housing market, according to Kermit Baker, chief economist for the American Institute of Architects and a senior research fellow at Harvard University.

Baker told Yahoo he believes housing is the number one problem is getting the economy moving again and banks are too cautious in screening applicants.

“A lot of banks are ignoring the housing market these days,” he told Yahoo.

Editor's Note: Economist Warns: ‘Money From Heaven a Path to Hell.’ See Evidence.

“Banks are nervous to get back in this market and I’m not sure [low] rates are going to change that dramatically.”

Baker said other factors influencing the slow housing recovery are that housing prices are still too high and consumers are still too leveraged.

Mortgage rates are at record lows and the current rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage is 3.34 percent, according to Zillow Mortgage Rate Ticker. A new government report found that banks processed 7.1 million mortgages in 2011 — a 10 percent drop from 2010 — the lowest level in 16 years.

Banks need to enforce documentation and down payment rules, but “the standards are too high. … I think [banks] have probably moved too far,” Baker said.

As for the Obama administration’s efforts to improve the housing situation, Baker said he would give them a “solid B” grade. He predicted quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve “will help a little.”

However, he noted, “Mortgage rates are really not the issue now of homebuyers getting back in the market.”

The National Association of Realtors reported this week that existing home sales in August rose 9.3 percent from last August to an annualized rate of 4.82 million units. The median price was $187,400, a gain of nearly 10 percent from August 2011.

Distressed homes — those in foreclosure or short sales — accounted for 22 percent of sales in August. Total inventory represented a 6.1 month supply, and the median time for a home to be on the market was 70 days.

Editor's Note: Economist Warns: ‘Money From Heaven a Path to Hell.’ See Evidence.

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