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August 11, 2009

July home sales and Zillow's take on the local market

Sales of homes under $250,000 were way up last month in the Baltimore metro area. Sales of pricier homes? Slightly down.

More interesting stats -- and economist forecasts -- in today's story about the Baltimore-area housing market. C'mon, you know you want to read it.

For all you nice folks who've already been there and done that, here are new statistics from Zillow's second-quarter Real Estate Market Report:

--A quarter of borrowers with single-family homes in the Baltimore metro area are "under water" on their mortgages, Zillow estimates. This stat relies on "Zestimates" of home values and compares current estimated value to the original mortgage amount. (So this does count people whose principal payments have put their heads above water, but it doesn't count homeowners who owe more than they could sell their home for because they tapped their equity in the go-go days.) 

--Seventeen percent in the metro area -- about one in six -- sold for a loss in June. By that, Zillow means homeowners who sold for less than they bought, foreclosures not included.

--Just under 9 percent of homes that changed hands were foreclosure resales, Zillow says. That's up from about 3.5 percent a year earlier. (Zillow's figures range widely. For instance, 2 percent in Towson and 21 percent in Middle River.)

Zillow's figures show about the same percentage of negative equity nationally as here, but more homes sold at a loss and more foreclosure resales.

The company said that nearly 30 percent of U.S. homes sold in June changed hands at a loss for the seller (which seems really high to me, but then California and Florida have a way of skewing national numbers). And foreclosure resales added up to 22 percent of homes sold, the company said.

Zillow said its separate Homeowner Confidence Survey found that 29 percent of homeowners "say they would be at least somewhat likely to put their home on the market if they see signs of a turnaround, ... signaling an abundance of potential shadow inventory waiting in the wings." (The July survey was conducted online.)

That's a lot of frustrated would-be sellers. If you're among that group, what signs of turnaround are you waiting for -- and how long can you hold off?
Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Housing stats


Great points Jamie. Once things do turnaround a little, we are going to take two steps back because people that have been wanting to sell for the last two years will put their homes on the market at the first signs of hope, which will flood the markets with inventory again.

I'm not sure what signs people are looking for (three months of increased sales, homes around them selling for what they want to sell for?) or maybe people that just need/want to get out and the prices finally rise where they can stomach to just break even to get out. Time will tell I guess.

In the absence of evidence to the contrary I will assert that the overwhelming majority of closed sales involve a distress situation of some sort; arbitrarily set at 85%.

The other 15% are properties are the far extreme of the price range and represent properties that have no bearing (as comps etc) on the lives on actual and prospective homeowners.

With that in mind what are we learning? 1) That the creditors are finally getting out of their own way and signing off on deals.
2) It is mid summer. If sales volume doesn't rise now (even with the tax credit)... when will it?
3) As the shadow inventory is let onto the market (flood or trickle) the effect will be more of these ghost sales numbers but all at lower prices.

(Blame foreclosures... bank-owned properties will hit the market in bigger numbers later this year and next, and "that will depress prices.")

dead cat bounce

I had the opportunity to hear the Chief Economist for Wachovia speak a diner for our Charlotte Home Builders Association and so far his predictions have been pretty good. Most markets by now have stopped free falling and have somewhat stableized. It will take another year or so for foreclosures and excess homes for sale in the market to depleat. It probably will not get much better for another 2 years, but at least is shouldn't get much worse.

My issue with Zillow is that it goes by prices of houses sold nearby, despite their condition. So a house that is in great condition with all the bells and whistles is compared to some run down house and vice versa. That's what happened during the boom. Nowadays it looks like we're going back to a more sane assessment based on the actual house itself.

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About Jamie Smith Hopkins
Jamie Smith Hopkins, a Baltimore Sun reporter since 1999, writes about the regional economy. Her reporting on the housing market has won national and local awards. Hopkins is a Columbia native and has lived in Maryland all her life, save for 10 months spent covering schools in Ames, Iowa.
She trained to become a wonk by spending large chunks of time as a geek and an insufferable know-it-all.
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