Real Estate

Home affordability at 2007 bubble levels, but crash is unlikely: Blackstone’s Joe Zidle

A major Wall Street firm is drawing a striking parallel to the housing bubble.

Blackstone’s Joe Zidle calls homes almost as unaffordable as the 2007 peak. Yet, he believes a crash is unlikely due to a major difference: Most owners aren’t using their homes like an ATM.

“That caused so many people to go upside down,” the firm’s chief investment strategist told CNBC’s “Fast Money” on Monday. “The value of what they owed was greater than the value of their home.”

Unlike the housing bust, 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 a drop in credit or lending standards,” he noted.

Blackstone is known for buying scores of distressed residential properties tied to the 2008 financial crisis. It’s still a major player in real estate, with investments in rentals, the rent-to-buy market and student housing.

“Because you have very little excess in housing, I think you end up having less risk,” he said.

Plus, Zidle cites a strong jobs market.

“Historically, housing ends up being more highly correlated to labor markets than it is to mortgage rates,” he said. “As long as the jobs market remains relatively healthy, I think housing will as well.”

His forecast comes as Wall Street gets ready for key reports this week on the consumer and housing. Investors will get earnings from major retailers including Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Target. Plus, numbers on homebuilder sentiment and home sales are due.

Zidle’s call reflects a 12-month time frame. Within that horizon, he sees the Federal Reserve hiking interest rates deeper into next year than the Street anticipates due to persistent inflation.

“Ultimately, the Fed is going to have to hike interest rates until something breaks,” added Zidle. “When we do get to a point where something breaks, I don’t think it’s housing.”

He expects the benchmark 10-year Treasury Note yield to hit 3.5%. It’s a level he expects the housing market to handle. On Monday, it was around 2.8%, up 90% so far this year.

“You might see home prices generally flatten out. You may have pockets of weakness where home prices in some regions might fall,” Zidle said. “But the idea of having a national and a prolonged drop in housing as the economy eventually rolls over, I think is still a relatively low probability.”