The above chart shows the distribution of home prices for all sales under $2M in Irvine, CA from 1/1/2010 through 7/31/2011. Irvine, CA is an expensive sub-market of an expensive region (Southern California). As a result, it is likely to feel any impact from lower conforming home limits more than most other places.
With that in mind, we’ve identified two potential price ranges that could be most impacted by the new limits. The green band represents homes that have selling prices where a 3.5% down payment represents a loan between the old limit ($729,000) and the new limit ($625,000). These properties represent 13.0% of all home sales in Irvine, CA. For the taxpayer’s sake, let’s hope that not many of the buyers in this price range are using only a 3.5% down payment. Those buyers are likely to be underwater soon as we predict continued downward drift in higher end home values in Southern California. These buyers represent one end of the spectrum.
On another point (but not the end, which would be “all cash” buyers) of the spectrum, we have buyers who put down 20%. At current Irvine, CA valuations, this is a substantial down-payment of around $170,000. For this level of royalty, we’ve used a purple band in the chart above. Using a 20% downpayment, 8.4% of sales in Irvine, CA would be impacted by the gap between the old and new conforming loan limits.
These are estimates — buyers in the green and purple bands have a few options. In order of long-term common sense for the buyer they are:
1. Pay less. Leverage seller fear that the loan limits really will reduce demand and correspondingly demand a lower price.
2. (tie) Put more down. Buy down the loan amount so that it becomes conforming.
2. (tie) Delay the purchase. The price-lowering impact from this change will be slight, but will occur over time. With an ongoing slow economy and prices above rental parity, there are no upward drivers for Irvine, CA home values.
3. Use “creative” financing. Pay the asking price but increase your monthly carrying cost for the term of the debt obligation.
Even though the higher limits don’t go into full effect until 1 Oct 2011, the delays involved in funding a loan will require that banks and brokers use the new limits as soon as possible.
Mitigating factor: long-term rates, paradoxically, plunged after the US downgrade. One can argue that it makes little sense that a downgraded asset class would be seen as safer after the downgrade, but that’s what Mr Market has said. Because rates are so low, investors will likely be interested in more non-comforming loans as the government makes its slow but necessary disengagement from being the mortgage underwriter of last resort.