Housing Inventory Down 22% Nationwide; Median Home Price Up 5%

26 01 2012

There were fewer homes listed for sale at the end of 2011 than in any of the previous four years, a positive sign for the housing sector.

Housing inventory slid to 1.89 million homes in December – down 6 percent from the previous month and 22.3 percent from the prior year, according to Realtor.com.

In the 145 markets tracked by Realtor.com, only Springfield, Ill., registered a year-over-year increase. Inventories plunged 49.7 percent in Miami, 49.1 percent in Phoenix, and 46.6 percent in Bakersfield, Calif.

Meanwhile, the national median price edged up 5 percent year-over-year.

Asking prices – the amount sellers include on a Realtor.com listing – climbed 32.5 percent in Miami, 21.7 percent in Naples, 21.5 percent in Fort Myers-Cape Coral, and 19.4 percent in Punta Gorda, according to Realtor.com.

However, asking prices were down 11 percent in Detroit, 10 percent in Chicago, 7.6 percent in Las Vegas, and 7 percent in Sacramento.

Source: Wall Street Journal

State of the Union: Obama’s Housing Proposal

26 01 2012

President Barack Obama proposed a new program during his State of the Union address on 1/24/12 to allow homeowners with privately held mortgages to refinance at lower interest rates.

The program would cover both loans issued by government-controlled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and private mortgage lenders. Congress would have to approve it, a difficult hurdle.

“There’s never been a better time to build, especially since the construction industry was one of the hardest-hit when the housing bubble burst,” Obama said. “Of course, construction workers weren’t the only ones hurt. So were millions of innocent Americans who’ve seen their home values decline. And while government can’t fix the problem on its own, responsible homeowners shouldn’t have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief.”

The housing bubble was at the center of the recession, prompting widespread foreclosures and leaving millions of homeowners with houses valued at less than their mortgages.

Under the plan, any homeowner current on his or her mortgage could take advantage of historically low lending rates. Mortgage rates have been below 4 percent for months.

A small fee on large banks would pay for the program, senior administration officials said.

Administration officials offered few details but estimated savings at $3,000 a year for average borrowers. It’s likely that millions of homeowners would be eligible, but they would have to seek out refinancing options under the program with their lender. Other government programs allow lenders to seek out potential applicants.

Further details of the program will likely be released in legislation in the next few days, officials said.

The new program would expand the Obama administration’s Home Affordable Refinance Program, which allows borrowers with Fannie and Freddie-backed loans to refinance at lower rates. Few people have signed up for that program. Many “underwater” borrowers – those who owe more than their homes are worth – couldn’t qualify.

About 1 in 4 Americans with a mortgage – about 11 million – are underwater, according to CoreLogic, a real estate data firm. Roughly 1 million homeowners have refinanced through the refinancing program. Government officials had estimated it would help 4 million to 5 million homeowners.

About half of all U.S. mortgages – about 30 million home loans – are owned by non-government lenders.

A task force on mortgage misdeeds

President Obama also announced the creation of a task force aimed at investigating the shoddy mortgage-lending practices that contributed to the financial collapse of 2008 and the housing crisis that continues to weigh on the economy.

Obama said he has asked Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to create a special unit of state attorneys general and federal prosecutors to probe deeper into questionable lending practices and the way in which risky loans were packaged and sold to investors.

“This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans,” Obama said in his State of the Union speech.

The creation of the task force comes as the administration and a coalition of state attorneys general are pushing to finalize a long-awaited multibillion-dollar settlement with the nation’s largest banks over their flawed and fraudulent foreclosure practices.

The deal has drawn criticism from liberal and consumer groups as well as attorneys general from New York, Delaware and other states, who have insisted that more extensive investigations are warranted and that any settlement should not grant banks too broad a liability from future legal action.

Source: The Associated Press

Jacksonville Ranks Among the Top 15 Best Performing Metros in 2011

10 01 2012

I have read several market reports and articles and they all indicate that the housing market is stabilizing and many experts predict Florida real estate will lead the U.S. in price growth. Take Jacksonville for an example. Jacksonville ranks among the Top 15 best performing metros in 2011. Clear Capital, a California-based research firm, predicts that Florida’s four largest metro markets will see some of the nation’s highest rates of price appreciation in 2012.

Below is an excerpt from Real Estate Economy Watch:

Home prices this year cease their decline and gain a slight 0.2 percent across all markets as more and more individual markets stabilize in the months to come.

However, though national prices will be flat, some 40 percent of the top 50 markets it tracks will stabilize in 2012, forecast Clear Capital, a premium provider of data and solutions for real estate asset valuation and risk assessment for large financial services companies.

Clear Capital reported a 2.1 percent year-over-year decrease in 2011 that was bolstered by a stabilizing of prices in the latter half of the year and decreasing REO saturation.

“Overall, 2011 was a relatively quiet year for U.S. home prices compared to the last five years,” said Dr. Alex Villacorta, Director of Research and Analytics at Clear Capital. “With national prices down a little more than two percent for the year and sitting at their lowest point since 2001, our projections show that the current balance the market has found will continue through 2012.

“However, individual markets reacting to their local economic drivers exhibit a wide range of performance levels,” added Dr. Villacorta.

“Although the national numbers suggest markets are flat, when looking at individual metro markets it turns out only 24 percent of them showed signs of stabilization in 2011, while the others are still moving more dramatically higher or lower. What’s most interesting is that the lower segments of appreciating markets are driving much of the current price growth. In places like Florida, which have historically been hard hit, we are now seeing considerable activity in lower-end properties as demand continues to heat up.”

U.S. prices declined -0.4 percent in December on a quarter-over-quarter basis, showing the markets giving back some of the gains of the summer buying season. This is the first cooling off after six monthly reports showing minimal quarterly gains. In fact, the most recent six months of the year (June – December) saw national home prices flat at -0.1 percent.

While these national quarterly numbers for December fell slightly, half of the major markets covered saw quarterly gains. Dayton, OH checked in at the top of highest quarterly performers with a gain of 5.0%. On the downside, Atlanta, GA showed consistent weakness as December’s lowest performing major market with a loss of -8.4 percent quarter-over-quarter.

In addition to the relatively flat home price performance, national REO saturation rates at the end of 2011 reached a new yearly low at 24.8 percent. REO saturation was volatile early in 2011, and showed consistent declines and stability toward the latter half of the year.

On the national level, 2012 is expected to play out much like the last half of 2011, with a very subtle price change. A minimal decline in the beginning of the year is expected to turn into a meager gain by year’s end. At a more granular level, half of the 50 major metro markets are expected to post gains for the year, and individual metros will experience the full gamut of price movement, from double-digit growth to double-digit drops.

Double digit volatility can be seen with the two strongest markets, including Orlando with a healthy price increase of 11.7 percent, and Bakersfield close behind with a projected 11.1 percent increase. The deepest drops come from Atlanta with an expected drop of -14.4 percent, and Los Angeles with a predicted drop of -10.3 percent.

Florida markets are expected to extend their impressive 2011 performances into 2012. Miami and Tampa are projected to be among the five highest performing metros with 8.8 percent and 7.4 percent growth, respectively, and Jacksonville is forecasted to gain 4.3 percent, placing it at a respectable eighth among the top metro markets. The exceptional growth in these markets can be a result of several factors, including being hit especially hard in the downturn. While fighting back, they remain significantly off their highs of 2006. Other factors in play in these markets include large increases in the values of their lower priced homes (near double-digits for all markets) when compared to higher priced segments of the market, and a high percentage of all cash transactions (51.8 percent) when compared to other metros. This indicates a high degree of investor activity as they look for bargains in the region, driving up demand.

Although the range of movement for U.S. prices stabilized through 2011, prices have settled at the lowest level since early 2001. The forecast for 2012 shows home prices starting with a dip in the first quarter, improving in the spring and summer buying season, and continuing to climb to 0.2 percent overall growth for 2012. Individual markets reacting to their local economic conditions continued to exhibit a wide range of performance levels in 2011, with only 12 of the top 50 metro markets (24 percent), returning year-over-year price movement that can be considered stable – price swings of less than 2.5 percentage points. This will continue into 2012, with only 40 percent being considered stable. 

Source: Clear Capital and Real Estate Economy Watch

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