Are we getting too bullish on Florida's housing recovery?
Wake up and good morning. Just an early morning note of caution to the brief euphoria we've started to see about the Florida housing market in early 2012. The optimists suggest we've hit bottom on home prices and our inventory of unsold homes is now small enough to absorb that coming "shadow inventory" of foreclosures bank are supposed to dump on the market. The crux of this thinking was well reported in Tampa Bay Times real estate reporter Mark Puente's recent story.
Hey, I'm a homeowner and I hope these "experts" are right. But let's curb that enthusiasm a bit as Florida enters the presidential political season. An interesting story in USA Today by Tim Mullaney explores the thinking of real estate folks in the Tampa Bay area who are worried political ideas touted by Mitt Romney and other Republican primary candidates -- to get government support out of the housing market -- may set back the especially vulnerable Tampa Bay and Florida housing revival.
Reports USA Today: "In Tampa, one of America's most-ravaged housing markets and the site of this year's GOP convention, the dominant reaction to Romney's words seems to be fear of the unknown. Realtors, consumers and home sellers all say much the same thing: Cutting the government's role in housing might help a market that has begun to stabilize, or it might hurt.... 'It's really, really shocking,' says 53-year-old Leslie Fletcher, a Ron Paul backer. She has been fighting foreclosure for two years. 'I don't think they have any concept of what the average person is living with.'"
The story also quotes University of South Florida political professor Susan MacManus saying that Florida's economy and housing are inseparable. "People put them together because they think if they lose their job they may lose their house."
A more somber assessment of housing's future comes in Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner's Jan. 19 analysis called Vacancies and the Housing Recovery: We Still Have Quite a Way to Go. Vitner says the "string of positive reports on the housing market has raised hopes that 2012 will be year in which the housing recovery truly begins. Unfortunately, we believe these hopes are a bit premature."
Recovery's coming, Vitner says. But it will take longer (especially in harder hit Florida) than might be expected in these bullish first weeks of 2012.
-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times