The mortgage crisis has been the main shark in the water over the past couple of years. You should know where that shark is and whether or not it is hungry. The chart below shows you those ferocious fish may still have an appetite:
It shows you that we are past the viscous subprime crisis, when that shark chewed through the balance sheets of a number of banks and financial institutions, in some cases devouring them whole. However, it is not yet safe to get back in the water:
There are these other slices of mortgages that are not quite as risky as subprime that reset in the next couple of years. Years 2010 and 2011 face big resets in so-called Alt-A and Option ARM loans. What this means is more write-downs and more losses for banks and others who hold these mortgages.
Making all this worse is the fact that the housing market has not yet recovered. T2 Partners made the case that the current “stabilization” of the housing market is a head fake. Mostly, it's due to huge government support of the housing market. But there is still a large inventory of homes out there. And with these resets coming due, we've still got a large amount of foreclosures on the horizon.
All the while, the unemployment numbers are still poor. T2 Partners calls the unemployment situation the “most severe since the Great Depression.” The US economy has shed over 8 million jobs in this recession and unemployment – officially – is over 10%.
Plus, it's not like the average US consumer is in a good position to sail through this crisis. Household liabilities are still high, as this next chart shows:
US consumers need to save and rebuild their financial strength. This is why the savings rate is on the rise. This is why, for the first time since the 1950s, household credit debt declined.
As real estate investors, it seems clear that any idea that depends on discretionary consumer spending – say, buying trendy new sweaters or watches or expensive shoes – faces some big head winds. Better to the stick with the necessities, I say.