Housing prices to free fall in 2008 - Merrill

According to a Merrill Lynch report, home prices will drop 15 percent this year, and declines will continue in 2009.

Subscribe to Real Estate
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By David Goldman, CNNMoney.com staff writer

Mortgage Rates
30 yr fixed 3.94%
15 yr fixed 3.02%
5/1 ARM 3.48%
30 yr refi 4.01%
15 yr refi 3.10%

Find personalized rates:
 

Rates provided by Bankrate.com.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The worst housing financial crisis in decades is only going to get worse, a Merrill Lynch report said Wednesday.

The investment bank forecasted a 15 percent drop in housing prices in 2008 and a further 10 percent drop in 2009, with even more depreciation likely in 2010.

By contrast, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) expects housing prices to remain flat in 2008. NAR did cut its home price estimate for the current quarter, however, to a 5.3 percent year-over-year decline, which represents the steepest drop in that price measure on record. But NAR sees an uptick in home prices in the last two quarters of 2008.

"Merrill Lynch's figures are way too pessimistic, and they are unprecedented," Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors chief economist told CNNMoney.com. "There is so much variation in local housing markets, and we see stable price conditions for 2008."

The current housing crisis and the depreciation in home prices have pummeled the economy, with businesses and consumers cutting back on spending, raising the specter of a recession. "Lower sales and higher inventory for sales are lowering the velocity of transactions," said Fritz Siebel, Director of US Property Derivatives for Tradition Financial Services. "That cannot be a sign of good health for the economy."

But for those who think that the worst is over, Merrill Lynch said that housing prices still remain comparatively high. The brokerage believes that home prices are still far above historical norms when compared to other measures such as rent or GDP. "By our calculations, it will take about a 20 to 30 percent decline in home prices to correct this imbalance," said the report.

Merrill Lynch believes that housing starts will most likely slide another 30 percent by the end of 2008 - a historic low.

The report says that the inventory situation only continues to worsen, as homebuilders are now looking at more than a nine months' supply. "The current supply/demand environment does not favor a swift recovery in the housing market, in our view," according to the report.

Yun agrees that the reduction in housing starts will not bode well for the economy, especially in the homebuilding industry, but he believes that the reduction will soothe the housing market by slowing the glut in inventory. "The reduction in housing starts is not stabilizing the economy, but it will stabilize the market," said Yun. To top of page



Photo Galleries
Meet the kids dressed as Oscars red carpet stars By now, you've seen the red carpet looks from the 2015 Oscars. But you haven't seen 5 year-olds dressed up like A-listers at the awards, until now. Photographer Tricia Messeroux and designer Andrea Pitter recreated the pint-sized looks in just 36 hours. More
Flying economy doesn't have to be miserable For those willing to shell out just a little extra, several à la carte services offer experiences usually reserved for First Class passengers. More
Consumer Reports' Top Picks - American cars are back The magazine's favorite cars include three American models for the first time in years, thanks to a big boost from Tesla. More