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September 9, 2010

Zillow: 13% of Baltimore-area homes selling at a loss

Thirteen percent of homeowners who sold in the Baltimore metro area in July let the property go for less money than they paid for it, real estate information site says.

The trend peaked in early 2009 with 15 percent of homeowners selling at a loss. But three years ago, the sales-at-a-loss share was less than half as large as it is now.

In the "could be worse" category: 26 percent -- just over a quarter -- of U.S. homeowners sold at a loss in July, according to Zillow.

These figures don't include foreclosures or resales of foreclosed properties, Zillow says. That would obviously increase the loss number quite a bit. (The analysis also doesn't take into account the transaction costs of selling -- just the price the homeowners accepted from the buyer vs. what they paid to the previous seller.)

Zillow doesn't mention short sales one way or another, but I'm guessing that's a big piece of the story. These homes sell for less than the amount due on the mortgage, with bank approval. It's the lender rather than the borrower shouldering the loss, unless the lender decides to seek a deficiency judgment for the difference. (Either way, the borrower leaves with damaged credit, so there is a financial hit involved.)

By Zillow's calculation, some communities are seeing a lot more sales at a loss than others.

In Baltimore, for instance, 19 percent of home sales in July were losses. At the other extreme is Arnold in Anne Arundel County, where 3 percent of homes sold at a loss, Zillow says.

Ellicott City and Columbia might collectively be No. 2 on Money Magazine's "best places to live" list, but about 14 percent of July home sellers in both communities sold for less than their purchase prices.

Zillow's new report has a variety of other statistics, from its "Zestimate"-fueled home value index to list price per square foot. But what caught my eye was its calculation of the share of homes sold.

Four years ago, the Baltimore metro area had just finished a 12-month period during which 7.7 percent of all homes in the region had changed hands. That was higher even than the nation.

Fast-forward to August 2008. The 12-month tally had sunk to under 2 percent in the metro area, below the national average.

Now? About 3.7 percent of all homes in the Baltimore metro area changed hands in the past 12 months, Zillow says -- same as the U.S. overall.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:00 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: For sale, Housing market experiences, Housing stats


If 13% of homes sold for less than the owner paid for them, that must mean that 87% of homes sold went for more than the owner paid for them... pretty good statistics in this economy

I don't think this is a just a Baltimore issue. In fact, I don't think this is a purely residential issue. Saw another article, recently, that pointed to a similar situation in Texas farmland. The burning question is......When will we turn the corner to better economic times (and better real estate markets)?

I take this as good news and proves all the government intervention and low mortage rates are really helping the home-sellers. I don't know a single person who thinks their house is worth less than they paid for it. I am pretty sure all this bad talk about the economy is just made up by Republicans. I, for one, feel very confident about my debt level and so do most of my friends. I am actually looking into a vacation home - Lawrence Yun said this is the best market to buy a house in quite some time.


I bet you that's because the people selling bought homes 15-20 years ago. The loss is a big deal because it's the people who bought in the past 6. Hopefully the people sell their house for more than what it naturally increased due to inflation.

"When will we turn the corner to better economic times (and better real estate markets)?"

Get a dart board and write the years 2015-2025 in various locations. Now blindfold yourself and turn off the lights and throw a dart. Tell me what number you hit.

In all seriousness though. We won't even begin to recover in the housing market until the Alt-A and ARMs are flushed out completely which I think is 2015? That's another trillion and a half dollars of mortgages on the line. So after those fail like the subprime we'll have even more housing inventory. Just a random guess... 2018 until housing inventory is in line with demand.

as someone who has both bought and sold a house within the past year, i must echo what many have stated recently, that zillow is not a terribly accurate tool. other real estate sites are far superior.

Buy low, sell high. Those who bought high should suffer the consequences.

@ Guy Laimbaugh
Lawrence Yun has been saying this is the best time to buy for over four years. The guy is the chief economist for NAR and gets paid to say only good things about the housing industry. Simply put, the guy is a talking head. Listening to Mr. Yun would be like someone taking advice from only the seller's agent, not the smartest move on the planet.

As for the 87% that sold for a profit; remember, there were plenty of homes sold prior to 2002 and those homes would sell for a profit, some of which could be underwater mortgage wise because of refinancing.

I cannot stand that people turn to zillow. Zillow is not an accurate evaluation of pricing on homes. I work in the real estate business and even my own home's value is wrong on zillow. Please people, STOP going to zillow.

@ Guy Laimbaugh - Are you serious or were you just trying to be funny? Hopefully you were just being funny. Tell the 9+% of the population looking for a job, the millions of people that have lost their homes, those not able to retire due to the stock market in such bad shape, and others working two jobs to pay bills that the economy is doing so well and it is all made up. I'm sure they will appreciate your views.

"I don't know a single person who thinks their house is worth less than they paid for it." You must not be a very popular guy or have friends that are delusional.

Lawrence Yun is a moron and has said for the past two years that the housing market is turning a corner. However, he gets paid to say those things.

There are also plenty of homes that are on the market that are listed just to break even and aren't selling. Those sellers are trying to hold on and hope someone bites. The only way you sell your home is if you drop the price. Most homeowners who bought during the bubble can't come to closing with the cash. This is why they can't sell their home.

@ bill, I would have to wonder about how many of the 87% that supposedly got a higher selling price would account for the concessions (seller contributions) given to the buyer as with the time period in which they owned the house along with the various monies reinvested into the house for upkeep and upgrades. In other words the real net return while factoring in the time value of money, inflation etc. The other point would be how many of the 87% ended up in foreclosure, or a short sell that were considered outliers and not included in this 87%.

ANY time is a good time to buy a house if you plan on living in it for 15 years or more!
And as long as you can pay the mortgage!

Buying is ALWAYS preferable to renting if it is for the long term.

Always funny that those in the real estate business have to rip zillow. Zillow is simply reporting on publicly available data (sales price of the homes). These aren't their projections of what homes will go for but instead what they did sell for and compared it to what those homes were purchased for previously.

There are other government web sites that have a history of home prices.

And the market will not recover until more people have jobs, people are confident of keeping their jobs and people get raises.

The average person couldn't afford homes at these prices before the economy tanked and obviously still can't.
It was just the idiots in the banks and mortgage business that just kept approving loans, some with no income data, that allowed the homes to get to outrageous prices.

Anon 3:57

Two of the most dangerous words in the English language are "always" and "never"

I am very doubtful that those who bought at the peak in 2005-6 will come out ahead of renters by the year 2020.

Time will tell. I still recommend those who can or want to sell should do so now, even at a loss, in order to avoid huge losses down the road.

The Piper is in Baltimore and he is demanding to be paid!

many sellers are taking the properties back off the market, trying to rent them, or just turning down perfectly reasonable offers because they can't stomach taking a loss.

this can't go on forever, because property taxes, home owners' insurance, and basic home upkeep don't take a time out because of a down market.

also, seller concessions are a big part of this... many home owners will sell at break-even but end up tossing in 5k or more at closing.

at any rate, once you include the money spent on getting the house ready to sell or just keeping it up during the time you own it, selling at a slight gain or break even really isn't a good deal. these people lost money too, one way or another. the costs of ownership are significant.

the 13% figure is meaningless, because the context is not an accurate reflection of the total market. foreclosure sales account for HALF the properties selling right now. how many of those do you think are selling below 2002 prices? below 1998 prices? i would bet it's a lot! many of them were probably bought between 2004-2008 and were way underwater! so the 13% figure is pretty pointless, if you ask me. because you arrive at 13% by already removing the properties that are most likely to be selling below value... and keep in mind, many banks put off foreclosing or selling foreclosures because they don't want to flood the market with homes and they hope by waiting things will improve so they don't lose as much money.

lastly--many sellers were able to break even because of the tax credits to new home buyers, which ensured that more home buyers would be willing to make offers and would hurry to get in a good offer, before the program expired. now, the tables have turned, buyers don't have an ill-conceived government program pushing them to buy and they'll be willing to wait. the % selling at a loss will increase as buyers demand reductions and sellers who have been dragging their feet for a year or more (in hopes of the "summer of recovery") realize they can't keep paying the property taxes and insurance for a house they don't need or want.

I saw an add from Coach Erlich last night that said Maryland is in worse shape today than 4 years ago. I found that funny. Does he and his crew not get what was happening 4 years ago?
In any event - just found out that the bidding wars are heating up for the higher end real estate market again. A lot of my friends in townhomes desperately want to keep up with the Jones (and Ehrliks) and show they are wealthy also. Houses are going like hotcakes!! Time to trade up your house!! Those college kids with ridiculous student loans keep graduating and wanting a "home". Keep the stimulus money and low interest rates rolling forever!!!!

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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.
Baltimore Sun articles by Jamie

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