Housing, always the principal victim of escalating interest costs, remains in the doldrums. If we can allow ourselves a look to the future -- regardless of the prevailing economic outlook -- there is unmistakably a housing boom ahead and newer ways to finance millions of new dwellings.
It is inevitable that the nation will have more than 40 million persons entering their peak homebuying years in this decade.
Providing loans for their home purchases will increasingly become the role for institutional investors, rather that the savings and loan associations, traditional lending partners of the home-buying public. Under current and future directions seen for S & Ls, the banks, insurance companies and pension funds will be taking their vast money reserves into the housing market supplanting the longstanding, leading position of the savings and loan institutions.
Claude Pope, president of the American Mortgage Insurance Co. (AMIC) of Raleigh, N.C., expects the demand for new sources of home loans to double within five years. That need will be met in the main by major institutional investors as they recognize the reality of the housing boom.
"We project $452 billion in home mortgages or originations for 1985, compared to the $202 billion in origination during 1979," he said. "This will result in $2 trillion in mortgages outstanding -- practically double the 1979 level."
The huge amounts of money needed to cope with housing demands during the 1980s will be derived from the increasing use of the conventional mortgage-backed security.
Such security represents a share in a pool or a group of home mortgages. By buying mortgage-backed securities, institutional investors -- the aforementioned insurance firms, pension funds and banks -- invest their capital in the housing market.
Pope said life insurance companies invested $3.5 billion last year in mortgage-backed securities and probably will invest up to $40 billion by 1985. Pension funds are expected to increase their investments from the $1 billion of last year to $20 billion by 1985 and, he added, have the potential to become the largest group of mortgage investors.
About 40 million Americans participate currently in more than 50,000 pension plans, to illustrate that potential.
"State and local retirement funds will become more active in mortgage-backed securities as well," Pope said. Approximately $30.5 billion will be invested by this group by 1985 -- a dollar jump of $21.5 billion from last year. In addition, foreign investors will come into the market, to a limited extent. Though they are not recognized as mortgage investors as present, we expect $4 billion total investment from this group by 1985."
Three principal demand factors will spur this rapid growth in the demand for mortgage money, the economic health of the 1980s notwithstanding, Pope said, listing household formations, population shifts and home prices.
"New household formations will result from the post-World War II baby boom. As those babies reach adulthood, the number of adults between the ages of 25 and 34 should increase substantially.
"These are the peak family formation years. This age group accounts for approximately 70 percent of all first-time home buyers and 50 percent of repeat buyers. Also, the traditional husband/wife household will account for only 75 percent in 1970. Smaller households should rise more rapidly than total population during the next five years.
"Location shifts will be influenced by the role of energy. A population shift from the Northeast and industrial Midwest to the Southern states is expected to continue.
"Also, high energy costs will influence intra-regional shifts and inner suburbs and central cities will grow at the expense of outer suburbs.
"Home prices, meanwhile, will continue to rise. Between 1969 and 1979, the median sales price of new and existing homes rose by 147 percent and 155 percent, respectively. Demand for housing, therefore, is being boosted by the investment value of real estate in an inflationary environment. Housing will be desired not only for shelter but also as in investment hedge," Pope said.
For the next 10 years, Federal Home Loan Bank Board estimates call for 2 million to 2.4 million new housing units annually, based on the demand factors; this compares with the 17.5 million units needed during the last decade.
Obviously, the underlying change in the role played by the S & Ls stems from the huge drop in the savings habits of its customers, as well as the greater competition -- by government edict -- between the S & L and the banks.
According to last-quarter 1979 figures, as the most recent case in point, Americans put away only 3.5 percent of their after-tax income, the lowest point of savings over a span of 30 years.