But few are talking about the U.S. housing market and its re-emergence as a huge factor in the U.S. economy, and, as it turns out, in the re-election of the president. Check that -- at least one outfit is crediting the recent housing boomlet as a major reason the white House remained in Democratic hands. A new report out by Clear Capital, a Truckee, Calif., real estate financial services firm says that the president was "assisted" by the housing market's "sprint" over the past few months. But the firm says that the housing market is a fickle beast, and that a full-blown housing recovery may not be in the cards over the next four years.
The firm's HDI Market Report, which tracks the housing market through the end of October, shows positive housing trends "were a tailwind" for President Obama's election. But while that tailwind was enough to help propel the president to victory on Tuesday, the longer-term view is less bullish. Clear Capital says that "phase two" of the housing market recovery largely relies on the White House and Congress working with the housing industry to "reduce regulatory uncertainty." "Now that the election is finally behind us, there should be no more political risk in addressing the housing problem head-on," offers Alex Villacorta, director of research and analytics at Clear Capital. "President Obama's housing policies must evolve to turn the recovery's sprint into a marathon."
Villacorta points to an average U.S. home price appreciation figure of 4.6% this year, which "caught the attention of voters." Now that voters are tuned into the housing market, it would be a great time for the president to develop a "bold" housing market policy that boosted lending from banks and mortgage companies. "Even with the higher-than-historical annual average returns, lenders are still understandably cautious in the current environment of regulatory uncertainty," Villacorta adds. "And that's left the middle class out in the cold, enticed by record affordability levels but unable to qualify for a loan. President Obama's opportunity is now to press policy-makers to clear up regulations. Only then will lenders have confidence to fully re-engage in the housing market."
Even if housing did enough to push the president across the finish line, the market has a long way to go before fully recovering. Clear Capital says that while home prices are up by 4.6% in 2012 overall, prices are still off an average of 37.6% from the market peak in 2006. "Whether directly or indirectly, it would be hard to find a voter who hadn't been adversely affected by the housing collapse, and many are still at risk," says the Clear Capital report. "Given these losses, a home purchased for $200,000 in 2006 would likely be worth just $124,800 today. Obviously housing is a central issue for many voters, and we still have a long road ahead of us."