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July Housing Numbers: I Say Just Plain 'Bupkiss'

American Home Mortgage
CNBC.com
American Home Mortgage

I said the word bupkiss on TV this morning. Is that kosher? I just couldn’t think of a better word, for all my years of hifalutin network journalism experience. It’s just that everyone wanted to talk about the July existing home sales numbers, how sales were essentially flat, and that was better than many folks had predicted, and yadda yadda, isn’t that nice? But the fact of the matter is, the real credit crisis didn’t hit until after all those contracts that make up the July numbers were signed, sealed and delivered.

Remember the folks packing up their desks at American Home Mortgage ? Remember Countrywide taking out an 11 billion dollar loan? Remember any number of lenders from Countrywide to Capital One that they were shutting down their Alt-A mortgage units, in addition to curtailing subprime? August. It was all August. So when I see the number of closings, i.e. sales, for August, September, really October, which will be based on homes people shook on in August, then I’ll have something to talk about.

The one thing I will take from today’s numbers from the National Association of Realtors is the inventory number, because that’s only going to rise, thanks to increasing foreclosures, and, dare I say, wow, it’s pretty high right now. A 9.6-month supply. We haven’t seen that since Sept. 1990, and that was when the nation lost about a million jobs. We have job growth today, but nobody’s buying houses with all that newfound, newly earned cash.

A study from Credit Suisse shows the adjustment date for all those dicey ARMs that were sold during the peak of all that aggressive boom lending is October and beyond, so we haven’t seen the worst of the defaults and resulting foreclosures. If I’m right, and who knows if I am, those foreclosed homes will only push the inventory numbers up even higher. Yes, everything’s local, and yes, some markets will be hit harder than others, but yes, it’s all telling me that when I look at a bunch of numbers from July, they don’t really mean bupkiss.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.com

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  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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