Predictions for the Irvine Housing Market

This is the final installment in my series of related posts pertaining to the Irvine residential real estate market. It is my intention in this post to bring it all together, make a prediction as to the timing and depth of the upcoming crash, and describe the variables that will influence the market decline.

Below is a chart I created to demonstrate what I believe will occur in the Irvine Housing market between 2007 and 2013.

  • Median sales price will decline approximately 40% from near $700,000 to near $400,000 over the next 5 years.
  • There will be a multi-year flattening of prices at the bottom.
  • Sustained appreciation will not return until 2013 or later.
  • Peak bubble prices will not be seen until 2027 (unless we get another bubble).

Irvine Housing Market Prediction Chart

Irvine Housing Market Prediction Spreadsheet

Due to the psychology of the market participants, I believe market prices will display the same general timing and pattern of the price decline of the early 90’s. The difference will be the depth of the decline which will likely be more than double on a percentage basis. It will take a 39% decline in Irvine to bring prices back in line with fundamental valuations. I am projecting house prices declining at an increasing rate over the next three years with 8% drops in 2007, 12% in 2008, and 16% in 2009. This will be a foreclosure driven decline.

Some will argue price drops of this magnitude are not likely, these would be unprecedented declines; however, if real panic selling grips the market, the rate of decline could be even greater. If you recall, the increases were unprecedented as well. The rate of decline should lessen as we approach fundamental valuations. I estimate declines of 8% in 2010 and 4% in 2011, followed by a period of 3 years with little change in prices. I am projecting a flattening of prices at the bottom because it will take time to absorb the inventory of foreclosures resulting from the drop.

I didn’t show it in the chart, but fundamental valuations do catch up to current prices eventually. If rents continue to increase at 3% per year (which is typical of wage inflation and consistent with its long-term average), current price levels will be justified in 2027 — twenty years from now. Does anyone think prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.? Of course, given the propensity of the California housing market to bubble, once prices start to rise again in around 2013, they may reach current price levels by 2020.

I believe the decline depicted in the chart above will happen because of all the factors described in my previous posts:

I am IrvineRenter (Inventory Cholesterol)

Financially Conservative Home Financing

How Inflated are House Prices?

How Sub-Prime Lending Created the Housing Bubble

What is Past is Prologue

Timing and Depth of the Crash

What factors are in play that will influence the timing and depth of the crash? Throughout these posts, I have examined the psychological stages the market participants go through beginning with euphoria and the belief in continual appreciation and ending with depression and the belief that appreciation is dead. There are a number of technical factors which will influence the depth and timing of the decline:

  1. Percentage of Income Put Toward Housing Payments
  2. Interest Rates
  3. Forclosures
  4. Adjustable Rate Mortgage Time Bombs
  5. Government Intervention

One other factor of note is the relationship between median prices and actual prices which makes measuring the decline somewhat problematic.

Percentage of Income Put Toward Housing Payments

A change in buyer psychology which inevitably occurs during a market crash also influences people to put less of their income toward housing. Why would you stretch yourself to buy a depreciating asset? Historically, people have not. If people put smaller percentages of their income toward housing (both payments and rent), the fundamental value declines making for a lower bottom.

Housing as a Percentage of Disposable Income

Notice on the chart that people put a smaller percentage of their income toward housing during price declines.

Interest Rates

Another key factor impacting the fundamental value and thereby the bottom is interest rates. As was pointed out in the comments on a previous post, interest rates went down during the last price decline which softened the impact. Mortgage Interest rates are near historic lows, and will likely increase. As lenders and investors in Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) get burnt during the decline, they demand higher risk premiums. This increases the spread between the FED funds rate and mortgage interest rates, which is right now at a historic low. So even if the FED were to lower interest rates, the increased risk premiums demanded by lenders and MBS buyers will likely drive up mortgage interest rates. Higher interest rates mean lower prices and a lower bottom.

This is a potentially serious problem. The Federal Government must borrow enough money to service the budget deficit and the national debt. If the bursting of the housing bubble causes a worldwide credit crunch, interest rates will rise around the globe as cautious investors demand higher risk premiums. This may force the FED to raise interest rates to meet the obligations of the Federal Government. The combination of a higher FED rate and larger risk premiums could easily push interest rates back up to near the 8% historic norm or even much higher. An increase in interest rates from 6% to 8% is a 33% increase in borrowing costs. This would be disastrous for housing prices.

Mortage Rates 1963-2006

Notice mortgage interest rates are near historic lows and below historic averages. Is this sustainable?


The wildcard in this analysis is the impact of foreclosures. The number of foreclosures will effect both the timing and the severity of the drop because it is foreclosures that drive prices lower. Based on the chart below, it is relatively safe to say that foreclosures are going to surpass levels seen in the early 90’s. At the rate of increase we see demonstrated below, we should surpass the 1996 peak this year.

Defaults and Foreclosures as of 12-2006

Forclosures are increasing at an increasing rate and prices haven’t begun really dropping yet.

Foreclosures control the timing of the crash because they directly impact the must-sell inventory numbers. The greater the number of foreclosures, the greater the rate of decline in house prices. I have projected a dramatic decline in prices based on the trend in foreclosures we have seen to date. If the number and impact of foreclosures is worse than I thought, then the decline could happen even more quickly that I imagined. As I said in my first post, “Foreclosure statistics are the numbers to watch.”

I cannot overstate the importance of the foreclosures. Let’s be realistic, sellers will not lower their prices voluntarily. Prices will not drop without massive numbers of foreclosures to push them down. All of the “soft landing” arguments boil down to one supposition: the number of buyers in the market will be able to absorb the must-sell inventory on the market. If this is true, prices will not drop. If this is not true, prices will drop until enough buyers are found to purchase the foreclosures. There will be a number of buyers on the way down, some will be long-term homeowners who are present in any market, but many will be speculators betting on the return of appreciation. These people will be few in number, but there may be enough to them to buoy the market if there are not many foreclosures. If foreclosure numbers really spike, prices will fall until Rent Savers and Cashflow Investors enter the market and absorb the excess. IMO, the number of foreclosures will be too great for long-term owners and speculators to absorb.

Foreclosures also control the depth of the decline to some degree. Once prices fall down to their fundamental values, new buyers enter the market and begin to absorb the inventory. If there are not enough buyers at this price level to absorb all the foreclosures, prices could overshoot fundamentals to the downside; in fact, this does tend to happen at the bottom of the real estate cycle.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage Time Bombs

One of the most insidious problems of the housing bubble was the widespread use of adjustable rate mortgages. As I described in my post on conservative financing, adjustable rate mortgages are very risky; it is a risk that has been forgotten, ignored, or not understood by a great many buyers. Once prices have declined to a point where the loan balance is greater than the value of the property, mortgage holders will be unable to refinance when their mortgage reset comes due. Most often this will result in a foreclosure. In fact, this is going to be the primary mechanism of the decline, and it will also prevent any meaningful appreciation for years to come.

Imagine you are a homeowner, and your resale value has declined to where you could not cover your loan balance on a sale. You are able to make the payment on your ARM for another 3 years, but you will not be able to afford the reset. What would you do? I suspect you would list your house for sale at your breakeven value and hope the market comes back to save you. Hope is all you have. There are many, many people in this situation in the market. This is the nature of supply overhang.

Adjustable rate mortgages

These loans are time bombs waiting to go off. They have fuses of differing durations, but they will all explode eventually. These will not work their way out of the system for at least 5 to 7 years after they stop being used. They are still widely in use today. We are still sowing the seeds of the future supply overhang which will prevent home price appreciation.

Government Intervention

Because the problem with adjustable-rate mortgages is so large, this is an area where the government may intervene. There will be many borrowers who would be capable of making the payments on a conventional 30-year mortgage when their loan resets, but will be unable to refinance because they are underwater. For this group of borrowers, the government may institute a “loan guarantee” program similar to what they did for Chrysler in the 80’s. It would be in both the bank’s interest and the borrower’s interest to make the loan and have the borrower continue to make payments, and some banks will do this on their own (or be forced to in a “cram down“); however, many other banks will not, so a government program may become necessary to prevent further disruption in the market. This won’t do much for those with stated income (liar) loans, negative amortization loans, and others who are unable to make the payments (which is probably most buyers over the last 2-3 years). I don’t see the government getting involved in debt forgiveness or paying off the banks losses: It would be too expensive at a time when tax receipts will be down.

Another idea that has been floated is the potential for hyperinflation to bring wages and rents up to increase fundamental valuations. The FED will never allow this. One of the primary functions of the FED is to provide a stable financial system. Since stagflation of the 70’s, the FED has shown a willingness to push the economy into recession before it allows inflation to get out of control. In short, hyperinflation is not going to happen.


Related to hyperinflation is the devaluation of the dollar. Wages in the United States are already so high that jobs are being outsourced to foreign countries where people are paid much less. Wages cannot rise significantly from where they are without devaluing the dollar to prevent wage arbitrage from moving jobs overseas. In order for wages to rise in the United States (inflation) without causing jobs to move overseas, the dollar must decline in value. The FED doesn’t want to see this happen either. When a country knowingly devalues its currency, it causes a severe recession as the prices of imported goods and raw materials increases dramatically. Nobody wants a severe recession.

Median Prices vs. Property Specific Prices

The final phenomenon to note with respect to measuring the market decline is the difficulty in measuring the decline in values of specific properties. The median is not a particularly good measure of property values because it only measures how much was paid, not what you got for your money. If you sell your condo in today’s market for $500,000, wait a year, and buy a large detached home for $500,000, the median will not be impacted by those transactions, even though the sale and purchase represent a decline in housing prices. So it is possible this market crash could have individual properties decline 40% or more while the median is only off by 20%. It is probably more accurate to examine the sales prices on a per-square-foot basis to obtain a better measure the decline.

That being said, I think it is also likely that the median will decline 40% as well. The median is exaggerated because lenders are willing to loan people 10 times income to buy real estate. When credit tightens during the crash, lenders will pull back, eliminate the exotic loan terms, and keep their loans to the more conservative 3 to 4 times earnings. If this occurs, the median will decline as people’s borrowing power is reduced.


If prices follow their historical pattern, they will fall down to their fundamental valuations over the next 5 years. This drop will represent a 40% decline in prices during that time. There are a number of variables which will influence the depth and timing of the decline which I have described in this post. Most of the risks are to the downside. IMO, there will be overshoot. What I believe we will see is a decline in the median to the levels as described, but the price declines in individual properties will be greater. By 2012 the starter homes currently going for $600,000 may be selling for $300,000. As I am sure someone is going to point out, this is all supposition and speculation; it is. Despite all the nuance and fancy analysis, everything comes down to one simple indicator: to paraphrase James Carville and Bill Clinton, “It’s the Foreclosures, Stupid!”


This post is my last in this series laying out the case for a market decline. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who read these posts and shared in the discussion. Your words of support and thanks I saw throughout the comments are much appreciated.


If any of you would like to make a prediction, here is a Crystal Ball for you.


Update: from Housing Panic

Bubbles and Manias Conceptual Graph

37 thoughts on “Predictions for the Irvine Housing Market

  1. CoupleWaiting

    As correct as your prediction is, I hope it is too conservative. When my wife and I started dating three years ago, I told her we would be in a house in two years. Three years later, we’re married but still in an apartment.

    At the two year mark, when we were about ready, I saw the bubble in full form and opted not to participate in the inevitable voluntary group slaughter occurring around me by the masses.

    To compensate I moved us into a bigger, nicer apartment and realizing we might be here awhile, we painted, fully decorated and hunkered in for the long haul. According to your numbers, and I fear they will be close to reality, I don’t think we can wait that long.

    I can only hope that there are so many first-time buyers waiting on the sidelines like us…good credit, some cash in the bank, good jobs, etc… that the rally to price decline will occur more rapidly than you have predicted.

    I just can’t imagine with the tightening lending standards, foreclosures, NOD’s, rising inventory and the inevitable growth in number of the want-to-own-a-home population such as myself that we will ALL be forced to sit on the sidelines from between 5 and 10 years, starting now. In that time, we should change the name from Orange County to Rental County since that’s all they’ll be able to build that anyone can afford.

    And lastly, we are not trying to time the market, and wait for the absolute bottom… we know what kind of house we want, where we want it and what it SHOULD cost us at a fair market value…when the market declines to that price, we will buy-in, fully expecting additional depreciation but we will be happy to ride it out in a house we want, in a place we want, at a price we can afford.

    Five to ten years seems like such a long, long, loooong time.

  2. graphrix

    Irvinerenter – Thank you for your posts. They are all well thought out, clear and to the point and you have great charts. I thank you too because I know how much time and effort it takes for topics like this with this much information.

    My favorite chart is the historical interest rates. Notice how rates drop as prices fell? Looks like lower interest rates didn’t save the market then and it won’t save us this time either. Plus Big Ben will hold steady.

  3. GrewUpInIrvine

    Do the various market data lend well to a statistical deviation model? Or some other “confidence” factor for a 10, 20 30% drop in prices… It seems that the data should present a conic projection for future valuations with a mean and extremes…

  4. oc_fliptrack

    “According to your numbers, and I fear they will be close to reality, I don’t think we can wait that long.”

    Rein her in.

    Sorry to be a jerk, but spousal units + shaky finance = ticking bomb.

  5. mah

    I love your charts and your analogy, but I’m starting to believe the government is going to inflate this problem away. It is the easiest way for them to solve the American fcuk up of the last 60 years. They can also tally up that little problem called the US debt by simply inflating our currency.

    With that said; I think by 2013 prices may be around the levels you predict in inflation adjusted prices, but not in today’s prices.

    Meanwhile, America sells more bonds.

    p/s/ They don’t call him Helicopter Ben for no reason!

  6. dj

    Great work,

    Who knows how this will all play out over the next 5 to 10 years but I’m following the more bearish points of view until there reason.

    I can add that I just went through the approval process last week and was approved for less than I was in 05. We make more now, credit 800’s, serious cash from the sale of our last home, 18 years saving to both 401k’s etc… and almost no debt.

    WF rep. basically said it’s going to get tight for almost all loans.

    The girl who cuts my hair told me last week she has been trying to refi for two weeks and said “it’s like nobody cares like they use too” and are not very helpful. She had no idea what has transpired over the last couple of months with credit etc.

    Come to find out she has been late on both condos but managed to catch up, this hit her credit but the rate she is getting is “just to high” and she can’t handle the new loan amount. 2 years ago she was on the RE high with another co-worker and now she said they both need to sale,(must-sell inventory). They were both first time buyers and she said ‘we never knew there was a reason why it was so easy and everyone wanted to give us a loan to buy more houses’.

  7. CoupleWaiting


    “Rein her in. Sorry to be a jerk, but spousal units + shaky finance = ticking bomb.”

    Not sure if I am interpreting this correctly. So I can only say… she’s definitely on board which is great for me. I showed her everything I saw right from the beginning, and she sees it too.

    She believes the bubble is out of control and only a fool would buy in now or anytime soon. In fact, she talked her brother and his new wife from buying in during the fall of last year by telling them everything I had told her. Lucky for them.

    To your comment, that’s exactly why it makes sense for us to stay out of the market, to keep renting. Right now, we have money, we have savings, we live well, we have fun and we have the disposable income to relax and enjoy different things and places together.

    If we bought now, the monthly nut might give us a house, but our quality of life would plummet. Luckily for me, neither of us are willing to trade our current happy stress-free life just to get squeezed into a stucco box.

  8. gn


    Great post ! You said it so well.

    In addition to :

    “It’s the Foreclosures, Stupid!”

    We should add :

    “It’s NOT the interest rate, stupid!”
    “And it’s NOT the job market/economy, stupid!”

  9. AKRon

    Re inflating the US debt away. Unfortunately the Feds almost completely turn over their loans every 5 years, with a significant fraction of the nat debt refloated each year. Thus, they would REALLY have to hyperinflate to save money, otherwise the interest rates would rise on the debt and they could find themselves in a real fix.
    As far as devaluation, I am very pessimistic. It doesn’t matter squat what Ben wants- the Chinese, Saudis, Indians, Japanese etc are on the plus end of huge trade deficits and are already sitting on trillions of dollars. The Chinese and Japanese gov’t in particular are presently resisting devaluation the dollar to the extent that it should be devaluated (a good guess is by 25%)- it will be there decision to start dumping dollars, not Ben’s. Anyway, if Ben is anti-devaluation, he sure isn’t talking to Paulson, who just was in China begging them to devalue the dollar to reduce the trade deficit!

  10. graphrix

    mah – I am not sure if your point is coming across as clear as it should be. Correct me if I am wrong but I think you are saying that Helicoptor Ben will just keep printing money/bonds? If that is what you are saying that is actually bad for the dollar and will only cause it to drop more. China and Japan are big holders of our bonds and if they lose value they could sell hurting the dollar more and cause rates to rise as well. A good site to check out is Great topics about the Fed and the dollar. I don’t agree with everything on the site but the majority of the info has been very educational for me.

  11. Edyang

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your treaties on the market as you see it, and am discouraged and encouraged at the same time.

    My wife of just 3 months owns a house in La Puente which we are looking to sell so that we can relocate closer to Fountain Valley where I work…2 hour total commute times a day is really killing me after 1.5 years. But with the state of the market, I fear we will get much less than I thought.

    Having looked at Plan 4 in Decada of Portola Springs, we put our name on the list for the next phase release; sadly, $648,000 for a 1700 sq ft place sounded quite reasonable after the insane prices of the last few years.

    After reading these forums which validated my nagging suspicions — that it just isn’t the right time to buy — I’ve decided with my wife to rent for the time being. We’ll list our house and take what we can get for it, put the cash into a CD, and find an upscale 2 bedroom apartment either in Irvine or somewhere north OC to wait and see.

    Maybe prices will decline for the next 5 years as you’ve posted, maybe they won’t. All i know is, something is seriously wrong with a market when a couple’s combined income is $160,000 a year and we can barely afford a 1700 sq ft box. For all the hardworking professionals out there that just want a decent sized home for a reasonable price….here’s hoping the market declines to a sane level.

    Yes, many will be hurt, but many made a killing during the boom as well. As we should have learned from the stock market bubble and collapse, anything that rises so fast almost always comes back down to earth.

    Kudos again to this excellent forum. I use much of your info to counter the bulls who feel that we’ve bottomed out and Spring 2007 is the return of double digit gains.


  12. Anon

    Kudos for a nice series, IR.

    I won’t even try to predict the speed or duration of the correction, but I will note that I’ve looked at the housing cycle relative to economic cycles.

    The time to buy is just as the next recession bottoms out and we start seeing economic growth again. There will be another bubble, and they always start after the market has overcorrected below fundamental value and people start buying as the economy improves.

  13. IrvineMom

    SoCalwatcher – I looked at the graph of Active and Pending Sale – the spread is HUGE! This does not look rosy at all for price stabilization.

  14. OC Hunter

    Thanks for a great post Irvinerenter. I have been following your posts very closely. I have been sensing the market for over three years that it was overpriced back in 2004. However market doubled again from 2004 to 2006/2007. I would at least think for sake of fundamentals that if market doubles in two-three years, it can come down much harder with all market factors are combined. Like we hear now, lending standard have been tightened so much that even a good credit score person may be required to put 20% down in the coming years and you can imagine the downpayments for first time buyers! It would range in the $100,000’s. I believer the biggest factor that will bring the costs down drastically would be the foreclosures. All subprime home owners with ARM’s will end up in default, the ones who have negative equity. The simple reason being that they are already stretched, when mortgage resets, their home value would be less than what they owe and the new mortgage bank would require them to pay the difference in order to get the financing, difference which we all know may also be in the $100,000’s. I think market will deflate to the 40% range within three years. I work in construction industry (commercial) and am already feeling the impact on our business with fewer projects in the pipeline.

  15. Larry

    Commendable analysis you’ve done, thank you. I can’t disagree with your projections, except to say that inflation is the wildcard that is not really well accounted for. I bet we see price declines of 30% max, and in a short period of time if they’re going to happen (before 2009) because anything further than that is too wild to predict on the premise that inflation could allow rents/wages to catch up before another wave of foreclsures are forced.

  16. OCMan

    Irvine Renter,

    Do you know how closely the real historical house price has followed the fundamental price? I’m thinking the actual price may be cyclic sinusoidal curve with the fundamental price line in the middle.

    Another question. If I buy a median priced house now (w/o any discount), it would take 15 to 17 years to get back to purchased part. With buying and selling costs, that’s like renting for a very long time even with interest and tax break. Am I wrong or is pride of ownership that expensive.

    BTW, thanks for the charts. May not happen exactly but good to see some technical anaylsis. I guess no one will make money on houses in OC for awhile unless you are an agent or mortgage broker.

  17. DrHousingBubble


    Excellent stuff! I’m impressed and think what you have laid out may have a good chance of occurring. I just go back to the fact that no one, and I mean no one predicted 150 to 175 percent appreciation over 5 years in Orange County. This was unprecedented especially in a climate of low inflation and stagnant wages. If inflation was up in the double-digits then maybe there would be some economic ties to the asset run-up but since this isn’t the case, we are starting to see this bubble starting to pop.

    As you know, my sentiment was that stubborn sellers and wishful thinkers would dominate 2007. With this “sticky” market view, I was projecting that ALL of California would be negative year-on-year by Q4 but in the low to high single digits. Not sure where that leaves us at this moment with the subprime implosion only starting to catch fire here in Orange County.

    I’m cautious about making any prediction because I only need to look back 5 years and see that NOT ONE pundit, reporter, or book claimed triple-digit appreciation so quickly. And I think all bubble readers realized that this was an unsupportable mania; those that got caught up in the S-Storm will realize how heavy their mortgage really is.

    The hard thing to factor in IrvineRenter is market psychology and behavioral economics. What pushed this market up will ultimately collapse it; somehow this is poetic justice considering New Century Financial is unable to make its own payments on its debt.

    Dr. Housing Bubble

  18. IrvineRenter

    Thank you all for your comments.


    The fundamental value will always be at the bottom of a sinusoidal graph of prices because this is the price level where the market finds support.

    “If I buy a median priced house now (w/o any discount), it would take 15 to 17 years to get back to purchased part. With buying and selling costs, that’s like renting for a very long time even with interest and tax break. Am I wrong or is pride of ownership that expensive.”

    It will take 20 years for fundamentals to catch up to current prices, but your estimate of 15 to 17 is probably good for prices as we will undoubtedly start another bubble before then. And, yes, the pride of ownership is very expensive.

    Dr. Housing Bubble,

    Thank you for stopping by. As you noted, market psychology is really the X factor. You see panic selling all the time in stocks, but it isn’t very common in residential real estate. If a real panic ensues, prices won’t be very “sticky.”

    I love the irony of New Century Financial drowning in debt. They gave each of their customers an anvil and told them to tread water.

  19. Melissa

    Thank you for your hard work and interesting posts IrvineRenter. I really appreciate it as I don’t have quite as good of a grasp on the math.

    One question though. When you are looking at the numbers, do you think that prices will vary differently from city to city in Orange County? Specifically, will places like Newport and Laguna experience much more severe drops because they are so much more expensive or will these cities fair better because they are so desired?

    Eventually, I would prefer to buy in Newport or as close as possible in Irvine because both my husband and I live there, so I am curious how this might affect us. As for now, we have decided to move into a nicer apartment than we would normally pay for so that we are comfortable and not itching to buy for a few years.

    Thanks again!

  20. IrvineRenter


    In a market downturn, there is always a “flight to quality.” In other words, people dump the dumps and buy the good stuff. That being said, all prices will decline. The better, more desirable areas will decline less. In fact, if you compare the projections on the chart in this thread to the chart in the previous thread where I looked at prices in all of Orange County, you will see I am projecting a 40% decline in Irvine while I think prices will drop 50% in greater Orange County. Therefore, some areas in Orange County will drop more than 50%. A good guide would be to look up the median income statistics and compare that to the median home price. The median income determines the fundamental value. Also, I would take a look at location. Areas on the fringe are always hurt more than areas that are more accessible.

  21. WaitingInOC

    Very nice analysis. I know we’re all guessing somewhat here (not as to whether prices will drop, but as to how far and how fast). While I recognize that you could very well be right on both the price and timing, my own biased guess is that the time to bottom will be faster – say late 2009 or early 2010. My reasoning is that I think that the combination of ARM resets, tighter lending standards (including required down payments – even if only 5%), and layoffs due to the bursting housing bubble will lead to more foreclosures and some panic selling, which will make this decline faster than previous downturns (when ARM resets were not really a factor). I think the only thing that would prolong it is if the toxic loan resets keep coming in any significant numbers after my predicted bottom because I don’t think that we can really hit bottom until the number of loans resetting are reduced to the point where they are not putting any significant downward pressure on prices.

    As I said, this is just my own biased opinion, and it is biased because I have been waiting for this bubble to crash for awhile now (I recognized it in 2004) so that I can finally buy my first house. So, I want it to crash sooner rather than later, and I know that may affect my analysis even though I try not to let it as I am conscious of my bias. The reality is that I will buy when it makes sense for me to do so financially, and that may be before the bottom. But, as long as I don’t catch a falling knife and buy too far away from the bottom, and buy at a price that is comfortable for me to afford with a 30 year fixed rate, then I’ll take that chance and enjoy my new home. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure that means waiting for at least another 2-3 years.

    Again, thanks for your fine work on this. The foreclosure numbers over the next few months should be interesting.

  22. Bkshopr

    I have been following all your posts for quite sometime. I think your price dropping theory is way too unrealistic. The income that are charted are income reported to the IRS. Most of the the population in Irvine are Asian about 40%. The graph predictions do not apply to Asians.

    Hot Asian market are often over-inflated than most other non-Asian location. For examples, In San Gabriel Valley, the home price in Monterey Park, the poor section of El Monte and Rosemead are way over inflated due to the Asian buyers.

    One can not predict the wealth of Asians. Their house spending budget are disproportionate to their income earned. Asian will do anything to have their kids attend a good school at any price. Many older Asian are extremely frugal and they spend less than 20% of their earnings. No vacations, no hanging around at a bar, no ski trips, no fancy four Seasons hotels, no Nordstrom at full price, no shopping at Gelson’s and no high maintainance vehicles. Many also cook at home instead of eating out.

    Frugality and coupon shopping at the stores and frequent trips to South Coast Plaza to find sales or shopping at the Cabazon outlets are just some of their ways to get the best brands at a bargain. Lexus, Honda, and Toyota are vehicles that Asians drive. These cars have excellent maintanance records.

    When It come to buying a home no one really can predict the bags of cash that Asian buyers bring to the purchase. Many older grandparents give their children huge downpayment to purchase their homes so their grand kids can attend the local top rated school to becoming a scholar and a musical prodigy. Purchasing a home in Irvine at any cost has made the Irvine Company very wealthy. During the last recession the Asians were the primary buyers at Westpark and Tustin Ranch. The momentum of the Asians expansion also rejuvenated the older and tired strip retail centers in Irvine as well as inflating the affordability of homes.

    While the rest of us are waiting for the price to tumble the Asian buyers are coming out in flocks with the cash that they hid under the mattress.

    The Irvine Company does not need to sell land and build houses to sustain its cash flow. While its competitor land owners and builders like Lennar is desperately unloading its inventory at Columbus and risking everything to going “urban” to keep their public shareholders interested and happy. The Irvine Company is just too diversified and recession proof. It is also private. During this slow time it will just focus on its other specialties like retails, office expansions, Pelican resort Villas and hotel constructions, Island Hotel, collecting trophy high rises in San Diego, West LA, and the Silicon Valley and most importantly building more Irvine Apartment Communities to capture more of your and my hard earned rent money while we are still waiting for the price to drop. Do not try to job transfer to San Diego or San Jose, Irvine Apartment Communities are there too to collect your money.

    I think The Irvine Company will just let the land sit vacant and wait for the favorable climate to build again. The land is still perfectly good the next time around. I also think the design of the upcoming homes will be designed especially to target the Asian buyers like having good Feng Shui and good Wok “chi”.

  23. Irvine123


    Very good work. Thanks for sharing with us! I just want to share several of my observations.

    Since your prediction / model are driven by “fundamental value”, which in term driven by rental rate /ratio, one of the main drivers here is “rental inflation rate”. In the 40% drop model you kindly shared with us, the “rental inflation rate” is 3%.

    I am not sure I would agree with you that the 3% is a good number. Rental rate is driven by supply and demand (just like housing price). If your crashing theory stands, the rental demand has no place to go but UP. This increased demand will be driven by the following:

    a. During the bubble years, many people got into housing due to creative financing and/or subprime loans. Now that banks are tightening up standards and making it harder to get loans, there will be less people leaving rental market to become home owners.
    B. For those can afford a house via conventional mortgage; they are staying in their apartment longer due to market uncertainty. Many of the folks on this blog probably is in this category.

    c. Our “crashing” theory is not based on major economic down turn scenario in south Ca, therefore I don’t see number of people leaving OC will be a lot greater than the previous years. This means there is no meaningfully net demand loses.

    d. A lot of us believe that there will be more foreclosure coming. Well, unless those folks just leave OC, there will have to find a place to rent. Not all of those get foreclosure will leave OC.

    I don’t know for sure how much this will drive up the rental rates. But I think 5% is a more likely number than 3%. I rented between 1998 to 2000 in Laguna Nigel. When I moved in, the rent was 1100, when I left after 2 years, the rent was 1275. That is about 7.5% a year. For a $2000 apartment, increase of on average of $100 / year in a tight market is expected.

    So if we use 5% in your model, the overall drop will be 29% vs. 37% in your analysis. If we use 6% in your model, then the overall drop will be 25% vs. 37% in your model.

    I would argue that 37% drop probably is the worst case scenario with low probability ( due to the very conservative rental rate inflation assumption). I would argue that a 25% to 30% drop from all time high is probably the base case and expected case ( based on a 5 to 6% rental inflation rate)

    I have seen some new housing dropped 20% already. FYI, The 51 Sanctuary example you used previously, the builder is selling the same house for $300,000 less than what the home owner is asking for. That is about 20%.

  24. IrvineRenter


    The conversion of owners to renters has a zero net impact on rental rates because many of the homes people used to own will become rentals. People will not be able to bid up rental rates unless they make more money. If this crash is really bad (which looks likely) incomes in Orange County and Irvine will not be going up very fast. Think of all the realtors and mortgage brokers whose incomes just fell off a cliff. Historically, rental rates have leveled off during housing busts because of the associated recession (look up the chart on rent vs. prices for LA in previous threads.)

    You may be right that inflation, particularly wage and rent inflation, may work to bail out the FB’s. I am not concerned as much about the price level as I am about the crossover point. At whatever price level it becomes less expensive to own than to rent, I will buy.

  25. oc_fliptrack

    I fully expect OC’s population growth to swing negative within 2-3 years. Indeed, the first-time homebuying demographic (ages 18-34) is already shrinking. I think this will keep rental inflation in check for quite a while.

  26. pioneer10

    Just want to say great work on all of the pieces so far.

    Making me really consider pulling a money out of equities and building up cash to buy investment property 3-4 years into the future if this bubble plays out like you’re predicting

  27. red

    I dont want to take anything away from what IrvineRenter has done. I think he obviously has done an excellent job in making a strong case for housing crash. And if you’re thinking about buying now, you should definitely consider the risk and calculate the rent vs. own trade-off.

    But below is an article that touches on subprime lending and explains why experts make mistakes in predicting “extreme outcomes”.

    So what’s going to happen? I dunno. But when I’m weighing the likelihood of a prediction coming true–or worse, making a prediction myself–I try to remember some of what I’ve learned from psychologist Philip Tetlock. He’s made a study of expert predictions, and he’s found that they really aren’t very good. They do about as well, he says, as “the moderately attentive reader of good newspapers.”

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to experts like Roubini; you just shouldn’t overvalue them. But what’s even more interesting about Tetlock’s work is why experts make mistakes. One problem experts tend to have is loquacious overconfidence: They have a lot of information, so they can put together very convincing stories to describe extreme outcomes. Tetlock also found that experts were more likely to predict extreme events if they were forced to imagine specific story-lines.

  28. Albert

    Do you all feel Silicon Valley up north will drop 40% like the article predicted of Irvine? I like to think Irvine is the Silicon Valley of SoCal. Irvine is floated with technology companies. I somehow do I think Silicon Valley home prices will drop 40%. I sold my home in Irvine a year and half ago when the housing market peaked. Now I am just speculating. Although I do not have any facts or data to back my gut feeling, I do not feel Irvine will drop 40%. 5 years ago, a 2000 square ft home costed about 500k. following a 5 year appreciation in Irvine, without counting subprime lending factors, that house should be around 580-600k.

    Portola Springs – Paloma home – 2280 sq ft for 800k – real value probably 680k to 700k. After their price drop from 930k to 800k, all their homes are sold out, does that indicate they hit the perfect price?
    i think at most irvine housing will drop 15%.. and pick back up in 5 years, depending on how the lending industry responds to what has been happening. You never know, there might be new programs and new laws.

    i do not know much about foreclosures but i would assume they will still sell at market going rate. who is going to buy? Irvine is a college town that is growing massively, technology town, people move around in this industry, A LOT.

    So i don’t know, a lot of what I wrote is just thoughts in my head. just don’t forget, Irvine is a wonderful place to live in… great weather, low crime, master planned, you really think it’ll drop that bad?

  29. OC Hunter

    Hi Irvinerenter,

    I have a request for you. You seem to hit perfectly on most posts and I truly admire your knowledge and senses. It would be a great post if you could shed some light on the NAR’s misleading Median Home Pricing philosoply. I somewhat understand meaning of median prices, however in the declining market where sales and prices are constantly falling, a report came out today that medial in Los Angeles went up 8% and in OC it went down 0.5%. I have people who constantly debate this issue saying that median prices are going higher and higher and they dont believe that prices will come down.

    Could you post an article on this?

  30. bayarearenter

    @Albert, to answer your question, and
    if you have the time, why dont you crunch the
    numbers for the silicon valley , according to the theory
    so masterfully laid out by Irvine Renter —

    This will benefit many people including myself.

  31. miles2go

    Excellent work. However, you left out the anticipated effect of job losses due to the slowdown in real estate related industries. The Irvine/OC area has the highest concentration of mortgage brokers, title companies, etc. anywhere in the states. As these relatively high paying jobs fall off more home supply will hit the market, further depressing prices.

    Your analysis is spot on.

  32. Billydog25

    I wonder what impact foreign investment could have on the SoCal market? My friend is a R/E agent in Newport Beach, a VERY smooth character indeed, and that is his response to me when I throw out the facts– he thinks foreign investment, perhaps due to the weak dollar, will end up bailing out the market after about a year. Perhaps that is an X-factor since I dont believe that stat is tracked… any thoughts and/or research about that?

    One thing to Albert– experience in every investment realm in the world will show people do nothing if not over-react. When a public company has a bad quarter and loses 25% of its stock value the next day, I think that’s an example. Don’t under-estimate the mob over-reaction….

  33. IrvineRenter


    Rich Toscano addressed this issue here:

    Foreign money is always late to the party. They are often the bagholders who take the most serious losses in the decline. I hope foreign money does come into the market in the next year or two. Somebody has to own these properties while they lose 40% of their value.

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