The housing market is better off today than it was four years ago.
So argues Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist, who surveys the housing landscape across the country and comes away encouraged after looking at how bad things were back in early 2009, when President Obama first took office.
By the time Obama gave his inauguration speech, housing prices across the country had collapsed, falling nearly 30 percent.
Over the next three years, home prices dropped another 7.5 percent, before reversing that trend over the past nine months. As of June, prices had rebounded 3.6 percent, Kolko notes.
By the time we all head to the polls this November, home prices should be just 2.2 percent below where they were when Obama first took office.
“When Obama took office, prices were in free fall, and now they have stabilized,” he writes.
Funny then the president isn’t out there pounding the podium about his success in turning around the depressed housing market. In fact, housing barely gets a mention these days from either Obama or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
Well there are good reasons for the president’s silence on the issue.
His initial, somewhat ambiguous praise aside, Kolko makes clear that Obama’s record on housing has been a mixed one at best.
However, it’s mostly not to the President’s credit that the market is better off today. Policy did little to affect the trends in prices and construction, and the Administration’s most visible housing push – refinancing – was more about economic stimulus than about keeping people in their homes. Furthermore, the foreclosure inventory remains high in judicial states, mortgage credit remains very tight, and big future housing policy questions are unresolved. And “normal” remains many years away.
In fact, Kolko’s letting Obama off too easy – his administration’s bungling, halfhearted attempts to staunch the foreclosure crisis – HAMP for one – all too often has simply delayed the inevitable, leaving the threat of millions of zombie homes hanging over the market.
In fact, Obama’s scatter shot approach to the housing crisis may go down as his biggest failure, adding a huge drag to an already burdened economy struggling to get back on its feet.
The federal government’s reluctance to take the lead has led a mushrooming of grand-standing state initiatives that in some cases have turned the foreclosure process into a years-long slog.
Tellingly, Romney hasn’t offered up much of anything of what he would do with housing should he make it to the White House.
Not exactly a confidence builder either.