Signs of the Times

Click on photo for larger image.
Orange County, CA. Aug 21, 2005. Open House signs are common.

Orange County, CA. Aug 20, 2005. Notice the Open House sign at the bottom and also the price of diesel. Diesel prices are a huge story in California.

For the general economy it appears gas prices are starting to bite. For some excellent commentary this week, see Dr. Roubini’s “Will the Latest Oil Price Shock Lead to a U.S. and Global Recession?” and Dr. Hamilton’s “Talk of recession“.

The 3rd photo is also from Orange County. The For Sale signs are sprouting up in my neighborhood like wildflowers in the desert in Spring.

Three in a row. For the housing market, rising inventories is the story.

In San Diego:

Inventory of all existing homes for sale in San Diego County reached a 10-year ebb of 2,916 units on March 29, 2004, said Dennis Smith, an Encinitas-based Realtor who has been tracking prices and inventory since 1995. As of Aug. 10, that inventory had risen to 13,204 homes. That rise took place in nearly 18 months.

In Palm Springs:

‘… unsold resale inventory is currently at around 3,452 properties, according to Greg Berkemer, executive vice president of the California Desert Association of Realtors. That figure is up 63 percent from a year ago and is more than twice the 1,400 seen in April 2004.’

In Sacramento:

‘Jim Eggleston, owner of Sacramento’s biggest residential “For Sale” sign installer, predicts this will be his busiest week in 21 years in business. He’s had to hire an extra worker and buy a new delivery truck since his crew planted a one-day record of 225 signs on Monday.’

In Boston:

The number of listings of single-family houses in 17 towns in Greater Boston was up 25 percent or more last week compared with one year ago. And those houses are taking longer to sell. In four towns, listings increased 50 percent or more.

This doesn’t mean the boom is over. But it might be a clue that the housing market is slowing down. Looking backwards, the OFHEO House Price Index for Q2 will be released on Sept 1st and the price gains will most likely be spectacular. This week, Existing Home Sales for July will be released on Tuesday and New Home Sales on Wednesday. The Sales numbers should be strong, but I’ll be checking out inventories as a possible leading indicator of a housing slowdown.

Best Regards, CR Calculated Risk