Posts Tagged ‘CoreLogic’

House Prices Gradually on the Rise Again

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Home prices — including distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), climbed 1.1 percent in April, according to a new report from CoreLogic.  If you don’t count distressed sales, prices rose 2.6 percent.  Prices have not risen for two consecutive months since June 2010, a time when the homebuyer tax credit was still available.

Although the national gains are welcome, they also reflect a fluctuating state-to-state housing market.  Home prices rose significantly in markets where distressed properties comprise the majority of sales, such as Arizona, which saw an 8.8 percent annual gain, and Florida, where prices rose 5.5 percent.  This is a result of shrunken foreclosure inventories due to slowdowns in bank processing.  States with relatively smaller shares of distressed sales saw prices take a nosedive.

According to Anand Nallathambi, chief executive officer of CoreLogic, “Home prices are responding to a restricted supply that will likely exist for some time to come — an optimistic sign for the future of our industry.  We see the consistent month-over-month increases within our Home Price Index (HPI) and Pending HPI as one sign that the housing market is stabilizing.  Home prices are responding to a restricted supply that will likely exist for some time to come-an optimistic sign for the future of our industry.”

“Excluding distressed sales, home prices in March and April are improving at a rate not seen since late 2006 and appreciating at a faster rate than during the tax-credit boomlet in 2010,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic.  “Nationally, the supply of homes in current inventory is down to 6.5 months, a level not seen in more than five years, in part driven by the ‘locked in’ position of so many homeowners in negative equity.”

The spring sales season — while not vigorous — was busy, particularly for investors in distressed properties.  The summer numbers are not expected to be quite as strong.  After two months of gains, asking prices on for-sale homes, a two-month leading indicator, were unchanged in May, according to Trulia.com.  “Asking prices and employment both stagnated in May, yet one more reminder that the housing recovery depends on job growth,” said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist.  “The metros where prices rose the most have stronger demand from faster job growth.”  As home prices grew, so too did rents.  On a national basis, rents rose six percent in May when compared with 2011, according to Trulia, and the increases are accelerating monthly.

Despite the good news on the national front, S&P/Case-Shiller reports that home prices continued to fall in five states.  They are Delaware, where prices plunged 11.9 percent when distressed properties are added to the mix; Illinois, one of the nation’s largest housing markets, saw prices fall another 5.6 percent in one year; Alabama, with its large rural and poverty-stricken population, experienced a 6.6 percent decline; Rhode Island, a state where many small communities are in serious financial trouble, reported a 6.2 percent drop; and Georgia, a largely agricultural state with an 8.9 percent unemployment rate, saw house prices fall 5.6 percent.

2012 CoreLogic Storm Surge Report Contains Some Surprises

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Which American city is at the greatest financial risk from a hurricane?  If you think it’s New Orleans or Miami, you’re wrong.  According to CoreLogic, a data analysis firm, it’s New York City that is at the greatest risk, both from the number of properties impacted and the dollar value of the damage.  The area also includes Long Island and northern New Jersey.

“The summer of 2011 gave us some startling insight into the damage that even a weak storm can cause in the New York City metro area,” CoreLogic vice president Howard Botts said.  “Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm as it passed through New Jersey and New York City, but the impact of the storm was still estimated at as much as $6 billion.  Economic losses mounted swiftly as businesses shuttered, the New York City mass transit system came to a sudden halt and emergency response teams were called into action to prepare for the worst.”

A hurricane is more likely to make landfall in Miami than New York, according to Colorado State University research.  The odds are 5.3 percent for Miami and 0.2 percent for New York City.  Fast forward a half century in the future and the odds rise to 95.5 percent for Miami and 6.6 percent for New York.  Despite the discrepancy in numbers, the risk exists, especially from flooding.  While most people associate hurricane damage with wind, the storm surge from rising waters caused by cyclones has the greatest impact.

That fact became evident to residents of the northeast after last summer’s Hurricane Irene.  Although the insured impact of Irene on New York City was relatively mild, one of the insurance industry’s nightmares has always been a major hurricane traveling up the Hudson River and striking the city and its suburbs.  Some estimates believe that an event of this magnitude could cause $100 billion just in insured losses, with economic damage greater than that.  According to CoreLogic estimates, the property at risk in the New York City area is worth some $168 billion.

Core Logic said that more than four million homes in the United States are at risk from hurricane-related flood damage, with more than $700 billion in property potentially vulnerable.  There are 2.2 million homes worth more than $500 billion at risk along the Atlantic coast; another 1.8 million homes worth $200 billion are imperiled along the Gulf coast.  Approximately 35 percent of the at-risk homes are in Florida and another 12 percent or so in Louisiana, the firm said.  In terms of value of property, more than 40 percent of the risk is concentrated in Florida and New York.

The 2012 CoreLogic Storm Surge report provides the first-ever analysis of residential property hurricane risk along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts broken down by region and by state, as well as a snapshot of the risk by metro areas.

Though more frequently impacted states like Florida, Texas and Louisiana get the most attention when it comes to hurricane vulnerability and destruction, Hurricane Irene made it very clear last summer that hurricane risk is not confined to the southern parts of the country,” Botts said.  “That’s why we felt it was important this year to highlight storm-surge risk in a brand new way to establish a better understanding of exposure throughout the states that are most at risk of a direct hurricane hit.  As we got a glimpse of during Irene, our 2012 report shows even a Category 1 storm could cause property damage in the billions along the northeastern Atlantic Coast and force major metropolitan areas to shut down or evacuate.”

CoreLogic created its Storm Surge Report to improve understanding of the risk that it poses to homes in areas prone to tropical storms.  Storm surge is triggered by the high winds and low barometric pressure associated with hurricanes, which cause water to mass inside a storm as it moves across the ocean before releasing as a powerful rush overland when the hurricane moves onshore.

“The data we compile is useful for insurance providers and financial services companies, to help them better understand potential exposure to damage for homes — particularly those that do not fall into designated FEMA Special Flood Hazard Areas,” Botts said.  “Homeowners who live outside of high risk flood zones are not required to carry flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and may not be fully aware of the risk storm surge poses to their home or property.  When a storm strikes the coast, storm-surge flooding can inundate homes far inland and cause significant losses from powerful surge waters, damaging debris and standing water left behind.”

Existing-House Sales Spike in April

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

If you want to sell a product, price it correctly. That theory at long last appears to be working in the U.S. housing market.  The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that sales of existing homes rose 3.4 percent in April when compared with March.  One reason is that asking prices were remarkably affordable.  The interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.79 percent, the lowest since record-keeping began in 1971, according to Freddie Mac.  The Realtors’ index of affordability hit a record high in the 1st quarter and factors in sales prices of existing homes, mortgage rates, and household income, which is gradually strengthening as the labor market improves.

The average sales price was 10.1 percent higher when compared with one year ago.  That has the potential to lure buyers who decide they can’t wait for even cheaper prices.  “Today’s data provide further evidence that the housing sector is turning the corner,” said economist Joseph Lavorgna of Deutsche Bank Securities.  The numbers could see more improvement in coming months.  Action Economics Chief Economist Michael Englund said that “The existing home sales data generally continue to underperform the recovery in the new home market and other indicators of real estate market activity.”  But, he added, “the trend is upward.”

Owner-occupied houses and condominiums dominated the market, a change from all-cash deals by investors snapping up distressed properties.  Employment gains and record-low mortgage rates may make houses affordable Americans, eliminating a source of weakness for the world’s largest economy just as risks from the European debt crisis rise.  “We are making incremental progress,” said Millan Mulraine, a senior U.S. strategist at TD Securities, Inc., who correctly forecast the sales pace.  “People are becoming more confident about job prospects and about taking on mortgages.  This is all positive for the economy.”

Even with this uptick, sales are well below the nearly six million per year that economists equate with healthy markets.  The mild winter encouraged some people to buy homes, which drove up sales in January and February, while making March weaker.

First-time buyers, a key segment critical to residential recovery, rose in April and accounted for 35 percent of sales, up from 32 percent in March.  “First-time homebuyers are slowly making their way back,” said Jennifer Lee, an economist at BMO Capital Markets.  “That is still below the 40-to-45 percent range during healthy times, but the highest in almost half a year.”  Homes at risk of foreclosure accounted for 28 percent of sales.  That’s approximately the same as was seen in March sales statistics, but down from 37 percent of sales in April 2011.

Wall Street analysts expressed caution about seeing the increase as a sign that home values are about to make a big comeback.  NAR’s price calculations may have been skewed by larger homes coming onto the market, analysts said.  According to NAR economist Lawrence Yun, seasonal factors might have played a role in the price increase because families tend to buy in the spring, which means bigger homes comprise a larger share of total sales.  “It does echo the message sent by most other related measures that have shown house prices stabilizing or firming,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan.  Home prices, according to the S&P/Case Shiller composite index, have fallen by approximately one-third since the middle of 2006.  “Although the data seem to imply that there is a relative good balance between buyers and sellers, it is unlikely that home prices can recover on a sustained basis until the number of distressed properties is more significantly reduced,” said Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics.

The housing inventory climbed 9.5 percent to 2.54 million, representing a 6 ½-month supply.  CoreLogic estimates that the shadow inventory — homes that aren’t on multiple listing services that are either seriously delinquent, in foreclosure or real-estate-owned — totaled 1.6 million units as of January.

CNBC’s Diana Olick is unimpressed with the price spike.  “The median price of an existing home that sold in April of this year was $177,400, an increase of just over 10 percent from a year ago.  That is the biggest price jump since January of 2006.  The difference between now and then, though, is the 2006 price jump was real, this latest spike is not.  As we reported here on the Realty Check last month, a lack of distressed supply, that is foreclosures and short sales, is pushing overall home sales lower.  That’s because the majority of the sales action for the past few years has been on the low end of the market.  Now, as banks try to modify more delinquent loans to comply with the recent $25 billion mortgage servicing settlement, and as investors rush in to buy distressed properties and take advantage of the hot rental market, the distressed market is drying up.  The share of home sales in the $0 — 250,000 price range made up over 73 percent of all sales in February; that has already dropped to 67 percent in April.  If you look at sales by price category, you see the most startling evidence of this shift in what’s selling on the low end out west.  Sales of homes $0 — 100,000 dropped over 26 percent out west in April, but rose 21 percent in the $250 — 500,000 price range.”

As Foreclosures Decline, Federal Government Makes Deal With 49 States

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

In good news for beleaguered homeowners, the Obama administration announced a $26 billion mortgage settlement, which 49 out of 50 state attorneys general signed on to.  The deal won praise from such groups as the Mortgage Bankers Association, the industry trade group for lenders, and the Center for Responsible Lending, a public interest group advocating for borrowers.

Conservatives suggested that the Obama administration is overreaching, and that the agreement rewards homeowners who haven’t been paying their mortgages.  On the other side, some liberal groups say it falls far short of providing the needed level of help to troubled homeowners hurt by the housing bubble, problems they blame on Wall Street banks and investors.  They would prefer additional relief for homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages.

“It’s a big check with narrow immunity,” said Paul Miller, a former examiner for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and currently an analyst with FBR Capital Markets in Arlington, VA.  “You get the state attorneys general off your back, but you’re not getting immunity from securitizations, which could come with their own steep cost down the road.”

Regulators are “aggressive” on pursuing securities claims and have set up a task force to do so, said Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.  The $26 billion deal doesn’t protect banks from claims related to faulty loans sold to government-owned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he said.  “It wasn’t the servicing practices that created the bubble, nor caused its collapse,” Donovan said.  “It was the origination and securitization of these horrendous products.”

Writing on Salon, Matt Stoller says that the deal lets the banks down relatively easily.  “Rather than settling anything, this agreement is simply a continuation of the policy framework of both the Bush and the Obama administrations.  So what exactly is that framework?  It is, as Damon Silvers of the Congressional Oversight Panel which monitored the bailouts, once put it, to preserve the capital structures of the largest banks.  ‘We can either have a rational resolution to the foreclosure crisis or we can preserve the capital structure of the banks,’ said Silvers in October, 2010.  “’We can’t do both.’  Writing down debt that cannot be paid back — the approach Franklin Roosevelt took — is off the table, as it would jeopardize the equity keeping those banks afloat.  This policy framework isn’t obvious, because it isn’t admissible in polite company.  Nonetheless, it occasionally gets out.  Back in August 2010, at an ‘on background’ briefing of financial bloggers, Treasury officials admitted that the point of its housing programs were to space out foreclosures so that banks could absorb smaller shocks to their balance sheets.  This is consistent with the president’s own words a few months later.”

Very gradually, the foreclosure crisis seems to be easing. The number of homes in foreclosure declined by 130,000, or 8.4 percent last year to 830,000, according to a report from CoreLogic, an economic research firm.  That compares with 1.1 million homes foreclosed in 2010.  These are homes whose owners had fallen far behind on payments, forcing lenders to put them into the foreclosure process.  The homes remain in the foreclosure inventory until they’re sold — either at auction or in a short sale, which is when a home is sold for less than the mortgage value — or until homeowners are current again on payments

There are two reasons for the decline in the foreclosure inventory, according to Mark Fleming, CoreLogic’s chief economist.  “The pace at which properties are entering foreclosure is slowing,” he said.  “And servicers nationwide stepped up the rate at which they were able to process distressed assets.”

In the last few years, homes have entered foreclosure more slowly because lenders carefully scrutinized applicants; only low-risk borrowers are granted loans.  Along with a measured improvement in the economy, this equals fewer borrowers getting into trouble.  Even borrowers in default are avoiding foreclosure in many instance and are being held up by judicial and regulatory constraints, according to Fleming.

The practice of robo-signing, in which banks filed slapdash and sometimes improper paperwork, made lenders more cautious about getting their paperwork in order before foreclosing.  When a bank does put a home into foreclosure, they are trying to speed the process.  One way they’ve done that is by encouraging short sales.  Another is that they’ve stepped up their foreclosure prevention efforts — often with the aid of government programs such as Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which the government says has helped nearly one million Americans stay in their homes.

After foreclosures are completed and the homes are back in the lenders’ hands, they sell quickly.  “This is the first time in a year that REO sales (those of bank-owned properties) have outpaced completed foreclosures,” Fleming said.  In December, there were 103 sales of bank-owned homes for every 100 homes in the foreclosure inventory.  That was a significant increase from November of 2010, when there were only 94 REO sales for every 100 homes in the foreclosure process.

As of December of 2011, Florida still topped the nation’s foreclosure inventory at 11.9 percent, followed by New Jersey with 6.4 percent and Illinois 5.4 percent.  Nevada, consistently the number one foreclosure state in the nation, has fallen to fourth place with 5.3 percent.

Housing Prices Still Weak, But Show Welcome Improvement

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Home prices revived somewhat during the 2nd quarter, but the housing market is still struggling.  Prices climbed an impressive 3.6 percent, compared during the three months ending March 31.  Despite the upbeat news, home prices are still down 5.9 percent compared with the 2nd quarter of 2010.  The rise in home prices came after three straight quarters of drops, the S&P/Case-Shiller national index — a recognized gauge of residential real-estate markets — reported.  The year-over-year decline was slightly more than the than the 4.7 percent drop that had been forecast by a consensus of experts at Briefing.com.  A separate monthly index of home prices in 20 major metro areas reported a month-over-month gain of 1.1 percent for June, and a 4.5 percent decline compared with last year.

The quarter-over-quarter price increase may be the last one for a while, said Stan Humphries, chief economist for the real estate website Zillow. He expects prices will weaken again.  “The August turmoil of credit rating downgrades, negative GDP revisions, stock oscillations and European debt woes are likely to leave a mark on both August home sales and home value appreciation,” according to Humphries.  “Monthly home value appreciation in June may mark the last hurrah before beginning to weaken in the back half of this year,” Humphries said.

Foreclosures still constituted a higher proportion of sales throughout the winter and spring as families took a break from home shopping; cash-rich investors dominate the market.  Nationally, home prices have returned to their 2003 levels.

Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington and Boston saw the largest monthly increases.  Cities hit hardest by the housing crisis, such as Las Vegas and Phoenix, reported small seasonal increases.  Housing has remained a drag on the economy and is one of the most important reasons why it is still struggling to recover two years after the recession officially ended.  Home sales in 2011 are likely to be at the lowest level in 14 years.  Home prices in many cities have reached their lowest points since the market bubble burst more than four years ago.  Home prices in Cleveland, Detroit, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tampa are at 2000 levels.  “These shifts suggest that we are back to regional housing markets, rather than a national housing market where everything rose and fell together,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P’s index committee.  “This month’s report showed mixed signals for recovery in home prices. No cities made new lows in June 2011, and the majority of cities are seeing improved annual rates,” Blitzer said.  “Looking across the cities, eight bottomed in 2009 and have remained above their lows.  These include all the California cities plus Dallas, Denver and Washington D.C., all relatively strong markets.”

“There’s no theoretical floor for prices. If the economy worsens, housing will get into a vicious cycle of falling prices and foreclosures,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “When prices fall, confidence wanes.”

Foreclosures and short sales — when a lender sells for less than what is owed on a mortgage – accounted for approximately 30 percent of all home sales in July, an increase from about 10 percent reported in normal years.  Nearly 1.7 million potential foreclosures are being delayed, according to real estate firm CoreLogic, either by backlogged courts or lenders waiting for the conclusion of state and federal investigations into questionable foreclosure practices.

“Prices aren’t going to rebound back rapidly,” said Paul Dales, a senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics Ltd. in Toronto.  “Most people think that when the downturn ends the recovery will be pretty good, but that’s not going to be the case at all.”

 “Consumer confidence is still weak, and the housing sector remains in a fragile state,” According to Robert Toll, chairman of Toll Brothers, Inc. the nation’s largest luxury homebuilder.  “The nation’s economy continues to suffer from the lack of jobs in housing construction and the related manufacturing and service sectors that a decent new-home market would typically generate.” 

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said “an overhang of distressed and foreclosed properties, tight credit conditions for builders and potential homebuyers, and ongoing concerns by both potential borrowers and lenders about continued house price declines” are hurting the housing market.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, described the activity as “underperforming.  The market can easily move into a healthy expansion if mortgage underwriting standards return to normalcy,” he said.  “We also need to be mindful that not all sales contracts are leading to closed existing-home sales.  Other market frictions need to be addressed, such as assuring that proper comparables are used in appraisal valuations, and streamlining the short sales process.”

HUD Head Says Housing Bottoms Off

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

American home prices may start rising as soon as the 3rd quarter as a foreclosure decline makes more homes available for sale, according to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.  “It’s very unlikely that we will see a significant further decline,” Donovan said.  “The real question is when will we start to see sustainable increases.  Some think it will be as early as the end of this summer or this fall.”  Home sales have increased in six of the past nine months; the number of homeowners in default is declining, Donovan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

“In the long run, it’s a good time to buy,” Donovan said.  “It’s so affordable today compared to where it’s been for generations.”  Contracts to purchase previously owned homes rose 8.2 percent in May, following a revised 11 percent drop in April, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).  Another NAR report showed sales of existing houses, which make up about 96 percent of the market, fell in May to a six-month low.  Home prices fell four percent in April over 2010, the biggest decline in 17 months according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index of values in 20 cities.  An estimated 1.7 million U.S. homes were in the foreclosure process and expected to be put on the market in April, representing an 18 percent decline from the peak, as fewer loans entered delinquency and more distressed homes were sold, CoreLogic Inc. said.

Additionally, Donovan said that foreclosures are down approximately 40 percent when compared with last year.  Although 1.3 million homes are still in the foreclosure process, Donovan said that housing prices are stabilizing in the aftermath of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  According to Donovan, “So, we are making progress, but rightly, the American people recognize we’re not where we need to be.  We still have a ways to go.”

On the subject of requiring 20 percent downpayments to buy homes, Donovan said there should be a way for qualified people to buy a home with less money upfront.  “We can’t go so far in the other direction that we cut off home ownership for people who really can be successful homeowners.  We can get back to the place where it’s a good investment and we will be able to make money over time,” Donovan said, noting that Americans should no longer view their homes as ATMs.

Financial analyst A. Gary Shilling, writing in The Christian Science Monitor, isn’t as optimistic.  In fact, he thinks that housing prices are likely to fall another 20 percent before bottoming out.  According to Shilling, “Many housing optimists a year ago believed not only that the housing collapse was over, but also that a robust rebound was under way.  Low mortgage rates and collapsed housing prices, not to mention the $8,000 federal tax credit for new home buyers and other initiatives, seemingly were going to kick-start housing activity nationwide.  Then a funny thing happened on the way to the housing recovery.  The tax credits expired, home sales dried up, and prices resumed their declines from their 2006 peak.  Excess inventories piled up due to overbuilding and mounting foreclosures.  In the meantime, buying those lower-priced houses became more difficult as lenders, burned by the housing crash, tightened lending standards and increased downpayment requirements.  As a result, the housing sector not only has failed to bolster the weak economic recovery but is also likely to continue to struggle for years.  And that’s bad news for the economy, which has softened in recent months.  Excess inventories are the mortal enemy of housing prices.  Lower prices are needed to unload surplus inventory, but in turn, lower prices bring forth more inventory from anxious sellers.  The anxiety of house sellers and the reluctance of buyers are enhanced by the realization that house prices can fall – and are falling for the first time in 70 years.”

The idea of owning a home is becoming less attractive as many people realize that it may be many years before prices stop falling and stabilize, let alone revive.  As proof, the national homeownership rate has fallen from its late 2009 peak of 69.2 percent to 66.4 percent in the 1st quarter of 2011 – the exact same level as in late 1998.  As homeownership loses its luster, rental apartments are gaining.  The homeownership rate is likely to continue to decline to its earlier long-term trend of around 64 percent as people continue to separate their abodes from their investments and as the baby boomers age, retire, and downsize.  That means approximately 4.5 million new renters in coming years.  Apartment construction, which normally totals 300,000 units annually, will be vigorous once surplus vacancies disappear.

Washington, D.C., Housing Market Shines in a Bleak Landscape

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Washington, D.C., Housing Market Shines in a Bleak LandscapeAlthough the Washington, D.C., residential market has held up surprisingly well over the past few years in an environment hammered by unemployment and foreclosures,  there is a question of whether the nation’s capital will spur recovery or if the rest of the country will drag down the local market.  Washington’s relatively low unemployment rate and availability of well-paying jobs has helped cushion the city’s housing market.  During the 3rd quarter, the District of Columbia’s average home price rose 3.1 percent over the 2nd quarter to $410,839, according to Delta Associates, a real estate research firm.  That is 6.2 percent higher than average home prices during the 3rd quarter of 2009.  The region’s foreclosure rate as of September was 2.1 percent, according to CoreLogic.  Nationally, the foreclosure rate was 3.3 percent.

According to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, more than 4 million homes were in or near foreclosure nationally in 2010.  That’s over and above the 6.2 million homes that were foreclosed between 2007 and 2010.  Those 10.2 million foreclosures equal the combined populations of Vermont and North Carolina.  Approximately 57 percent of economists and real estate experts surveyed by Macro Markets don’t think that home prices will recover until 2012; another 35 percent believe that real recovery won’t happen until 2013.

In recent testimony before the Congressional Oversight Panel, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that 24 percent of homes in the United States are under water – which puts their owners in the unenviable position of being unable to refinance or sell.  “The most important thing that’s going to affect the trajectory of home prices, the overall number of foreclosures, the ability of people to stay in their homes, is what the government is able to do to get the unemployment rate down,” Geithner said.