A major Wall Street firm draws a striking parallel with the housing bubble.
Blackstone’s Joe Zidle calls the homes nearly as unaffordable as the 2007 peak. Yet he thinks an accident is unlikely because of one major difference: Most homeowners don’t use their homes as an ATM.
“It has turned so many people upside down,” the company’s chief investment strategist told CNBC’s “Fast Money” on Monday. “The value of what they owed was greater than the value of their house.”
Unlike the housing slump, Zidle adds, home equity is at an all-time high and household balance sheets are strong.
“You haven’t had overbuilding. You haven’t had lower credit or lending standards,” he noted.
Blackstone is known for buying dozens of distressed residential properties linked to the 2008 financial crisis. It is still a major player in real estate, with investments in rentals, the rent-to-own market and housing student.
“Because you have very little housing excess, I think you end up having less risk,” he said.
Additionally, Zidle cites a strong labor market.
“Historically, housing ends up being more strongly correlated to labor markets than to mortgage rates,” he said. “As long as the labor market remains relatively healthy, I think housing will be too.”
His forecast comes as Wall Street prepares for key reports this week on consumption and housing. Investors will get revenue from major retailers including Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Target. In addition, the numbers on homebuilder sentiment and home sales are expected.
Zidle’s appeal reflects a 12 month period. In this horizon, he sees the Federal Reserve raising interest rates deeper next year than the street anticipates due to persistent inflation.
“Ultimately the Fed will have to raise interest rates until something breaks,” Zidle added. “When we get to a point where something breaks, I don’t think it’s housing.”
He expects the benchmark yield on 10-year Treasury bills to reach 3.5%. That’s a level he expects the housing market to manage. On Monday it was around 2.8%, up 90% so far this year.
“You could see home prices flatten out in general. You may have pockets of weakness where home prices in certain areas could fall,” Zidle said. “But the idea of having a national, prolonged housing decline as the economy eventually recovers, I think is still a relatively low probability.”