You gotta love good news
… now hopefully the encouraging numbers will filter down to our local market. That’s always one of the tough things to explain to clients about national market news — it’s not always the same in our local market. The same goes for the negative news too… often we can be quite positive locally where nationally you see pockets of weakness, etc.
By Chris Isidore @CNNMoney September 25, 2012: 10:11 AM ET
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — In another sign of a turnaround in the long-battered real estate market, average home prices rebounded in July to the same level as they were nine years ago.
According to the closely watched S&P/Case-Shiller national home price index, which covers more than 80% of the housing market in the United States, the typical home price in July rose 1.6% compared to the previous month.
It marked the third straight month that prices in all 20 major markets followed by the index improved, and it would have been the fourth straight month of improvement across the full spectrum if not for a slight decline in Detroit in April.
The index was up 1.2% compared to a year earlier, an improvement from the year-over-year change reported for June. While home prices have been showing a sequential change in recent months, it wasn’t until June that prices were higher than a year earlier.
The July reading matched levels last seen in summer 2003, when the market was marching toward its peak in 2006. The collapse of the market after that led to the financial crisis of 2008.
“The news on home prices in this report confirm recent good news about housing,” said David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Single-family housing starts are well ahead of last year’s pace, existing home sales are up, the inventory of homes for sale is down and foreclosure activity is slowing.”
Record low mortgage rates and a tighter supply of homes available for sale have helped to lift home prices. Lower unemployment also has helped with home prices, although job growth in recent months has been slower than hoped.
Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve announced it would buy $40 billion in mortgage bonds a month for the foreseeable future. This third round of asset purchases by the central bank, popularly known as QE3, is its effort to jump start the economy through even lower home loan rates.
Mike Larson, real estate analyst with Weiss Research, said part of the improvement in the housing market is due to investors using the low mortgage rates to buy up homes that are in foreclosure and renting them in a strong rental market.
But he said that he doesn’t think there’s much chance of housing prices forming any kind of new bubble in the foreseeable future.
“Clearly the worst is behind us for this market., but this is not a market that is going to take off again,” he said. “While you have a firming up, you still have tight lending standards and people who have been burned are reluctant or unable to get back in the market.” He predicts it will take several more years before housing prices can gain more than 1% to 2% a year.
But that is good news for a housing market that was plagued by plunging home values and high foreclosure rates for much of the last six years. And the good news has the potential to build on itself, said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist for Deutsche Bank.
“Housing remains a rare bright spot in an economy that is otherwise muddling through,” he wrote in a note to clients Tuesday. “The price trend for housing is significant, because it provides economic stimulus via stronger household balance sheets.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that home prices had reached a 9-year high. In fact, they rebounded to the level last seen in summer 2003, before their peak several years later.
In a related story…
- September 25, 2012, 9:47 AM
Five Questions: Why Home Prices Are Rising
By Nick Timiraos, Wall Street Journal
Home prices through July posted their largest year-to-date rise since 2005, according to theS&P/Case-Shiller indexcovering 20 major metropolitan areas.
Prices rose by 5.9% from the end of last year, according to the index, compared with a 0.4% gain for the same period last year and a 2.1% gain in 2010, when tax credits fueled a burst of home sales activity.
Are price gains limited to one segment of the market—say, foreclosed properties?
Not really. Data from real-estate firm CoreLogic show that the increases are being felt across all segments of the market. Overall median home prices in August were up by 12% from one year ago, as are median prices of existing homes that aren’t distressed sales.
Median prices of bank-owned foreclosures were up by 3%, while median prices were flat on short sales, where banks approve the sale of a house for less than the mortgage-debt that’s owed. Median prices of new homes, meanwhile, are up by 6%.
There are still a lot of foreclosures. How could prices be rising?
While foreclosures are still high by historic standards, the share of bank-owned foreclosures that are selling is down sharply over the past few years. Listings of foreclosed properties are down by 24% from one year ago and by more than 45% from two years ago.
While sales of foreclosed properties, which typically sell at a discount, have fallen by about 20% from one year ago, sales of traditional homes are up by 16% from one year ago, according to Ivy Zelman, chief executive at research firm Zelman & Associates. Prices, then, are rising not only because supplies of homes for sale are down, but demand is up.
Are banks strategically holding properties off of the market?
There’s little evidence that banks have seen an increase of marketable, or ready-for-sale, foreclosed properties sitting on their books. It’s true that there are still millions of properties that are in the foreclosure process or where borrowers have missed a couple of mortgage payments, and it’s unclear when or how aggressively banks will move those properties through the foreclosure process. In many cases, lenders and other mortgage companies that handle foreclosures have struggled to meet certain state requirements governing foreclosures. But the actual volumes of foreclosed properties that are sitting on banks books are down by around 24% from one year ago.
How large is the shadow inventory?
Overall, the “shadow inventory” of potential foreclosures is down by around 500,000 from the beginning of the year. Zelman & Associates put its estimate of shadow inventory that exceeds the typical level at around 2.9 million properties.
Shadow inventory, however, is falling more slowly than expected, according to estimates from Zelman, because banks have been taking longer to process foreclosures and less successful at completing loan modifications. Zelman now expects shadow inventory to remain steady this year before falling by 20% to 2.3 million by the end of next year. Earlier estimates had put shadow inventory at 2.6 million and 1.8 million units at the end of this year and next, respectively.
Are home prices going to fall further?
Home prices typically strengthen during the seasonally strong spring and summer months, when there are more people shopping for homes. They weaken in the fall and winter. The key, then, is to monitor the year-over-year change in home prices. Prices in July were 1.2% above their year-ago levels, according to Case-Shiller, with 16 of 20 cities posting year-over-year increases.
If banks continue to push more foreclosure alternatives at a measured pace and if housing demand remains at its current levels, then “home prices are easily past their bottom and are approaching the self-reinforcing portion of the cycle,” wrote Ms. Zelman in a recent report.
The biggest risks to her forecast, she says, are weakness in job growth and the broader economy and tighter credit standards brought on by forthcoming mortgage regulations.