June 17, 2009

Supersized homes (and the impact on price)

American homes, you've probably heard, are a lot bigger than they used to be. But how much bigger? And how much does supersizing explain price increases?

Here's the changing size of the typical new home between 1978 and 2008, according to the Census Bureau:


That's a 41 percent increase. Significant change in 30 years.

But it can't explain away even most of the increase in price, because the average new U.S. home cost 368 percent more last year than it did in '78. Home size grew 7 percent during the speedy run-up in prices of 2000 to '05.

But wait, size isn't everything. Wonk reader jake recently asked for a more complex chart showing the change in home prices adjusted not only for square feet but also inflation and interest rates.

Continue reading "Supersized homes (and the impact on price)" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:00 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Number-crunching

February 13, 2009

Home sales and prices here vs. elsewhere

You can't know if your grass is greener (or browner) if you don't compare, and the National Association of Realtors' price-and-sales data dump yesterday offers that opportunity.

The median home sale price in the Baltimore metro area was down 5.5 percent in the final three months of 2008 vs. a year earlier, according to preliminary figures from the NAR. The U.S. drop, by contrast, was more than twice as large at almost 12.5 percent.

Prices in the D.C. metro area plummeted 26 percent -- which didn't even rank it in the top 10. The biggest drop: just over 50 percent in Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.

The NAR tracks sales by state rather than metro area. Home sales in Maryland fell 15 percent, the trade group said. That's about middle of the pack. Six states had drops twice that large, while six others posted sales gains. (The gainers: Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida, Minnesota and Virginia.)

The Realtors association said a lot of the sales in the last three months of 2008 were "distressed." Foreclosures and short sales made up 45 percent of market activity, the NAR said.

Here's what NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun had to say about that in a press release:

“Once again, we see a pattern of strong sales gains, particularly in lower price homes, in areas with price declines resulting from foreclosures,” Yun said. “For example, in California and Florida, where distressed sales accounted for roughly two-third of all sales, the median price fell by much more as lower priced home sales far outpaced higher priced sales.”

Want to know more? Read the housing market story in the Sun today, see the NAR press release on sales and prices or wonk around with the stats.

Have something to say? Comment away.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:37 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 16, 2008

Q: What sort of homes sold here last month?

A: Less expensive ones.

Sales of homes priced below $250,000 increased by 9 percent last month vs. a year earlier in the Baltimore metro area, according to my analysis of Metropolitan Regional Information Systems data. Homes sales in the $250,000 to $499,000 range fell by 9 percent, while the $500,000-plus sales dropped 19 percent.

A lot more homeowners are trying to tap into that sweeter spot of the market: The number of properties listed for under $250,000 rose nearly 20 percent from a year earlier. Listings in the pricier categories dropped.

But there's still less competition for sellers in that lowest range, relatively speaking. Nine homeowners were trying to sell a home priced under $250,000 for every one that sold last month, vs. 10 in the middle price range and 20 in the high range.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 1:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Number-crunching

September 21, 2008

B'more and 'burbs: Prices before, during, after the boom

A look at average home sale prices in the last 10 years in Baltimore City and surrounding suburbs.

Read on for enough charts and numbers to warm any wonk's heart.

Continue reading "B'more and 'burbs: Prices before, during, after the boom" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 3:02 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Number-crunching

B'more and 'burbs: Sales before, during, after the boom

Here's a look at Baltimore City and suburban home sales trends in the last 10 years.

Charts, charts and more charts. Also numbers!

Continue reading "B'more and 'burbs: Sales before, during, after the boom" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 3:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

September 20, 2008

D.C.: Before, during, after the boom

By special Wonk reader request: A look at Washington, D.C.'s changing home sales and prices:





Change in sales, 2000-2005: up 20 percent

Change in sales, 2005-2007: down 19 percent (below '99 sales levels)

Change in average price, 2000-2005: up 113 percent

Change in average price, 2005-2007: up 1 percent 

You can find the numbers I used at Metropolitan Regional Information Systems' stats page.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 5:43 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Number-crunching

Before, during and after the boom

When did the local housing market start booming, anyway? "Start of the decade" is the shorthand, but it wasn't until 2001 that sales started to really jump and 2002 when prices followed suit. (Sales peaked in 2005, also the last year that prices saw double-digit gains.)

Here, have a look:





These charts are courtesy of Metropolitan Regional Information Systems data and wonkish curiosity.

If I feel less sick later this weekend, I'll put up charts of all the local jurisdictions.

Change in sales, 2000-2005: up 40 percent

Change in sales, 2005-2007: down 29 percent (below '00 sales levels)

Change in average price, 2000-2005: up 86 percent

Change in average price, 2005-2007: up 7 percent

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 9:09 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Number-crunching

August 25, 2008

See what's happening in your area

Today's story about the housing market comes with a nifty searchable database of home sales and prices for all ZIP codes in the Baltimore metro area that had more than a handful of sales in the first half of 2007 and 2008. Wonk or not, you might like to try it out.

And here's a taste of the home-sales story, which looks how things stand vs. a year ago and also vs. the frenzied days back in '05:

The numbers show a sharp change since the peak of buying three years ago. Sales have dropped by at least half in one out of three communities in the metro area. Average sale prices are down in one out of five communities compared with 2005.

Another trend that might seem counterintuitive: Some buyers are getting outbid for the homes they want. That's not necessarily escalating values vs. a few years ago, but it's still startling people who expected a lack of competition:

"We wanted ... an area where the school districts were good based on state ratings," said Christine McDonough. "We found there were too many other people waiting for the same thing."
Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:51 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Number-crunching

August 14, 2008

Where we stand, according to the NAR

The drop in home sales in Maryland during the important spring selling season was sixth-biggest in the nation, according to numbers released today by the National Association of Realtors. (That compares April-June of this year with the same months last year.)

The 30 percent decline was a lot more than the nation's as a whole -- 16 percent. But it's an improvement on the first three months of the year, when Maryland sales dropped 39 percent vs. a year earlier, worst in the nation.

The Realtors group also compared sales in April-June with January-March, adjusted for seasonal variations, and said that 13 states saw increases. Maryland was not one of them; its sales dropped about 5 percent, about middle of the pack.

Single-family home prices, meanwhile, dropped 4.5 percent in the Baltimore metro area in the spring, according to the NAR, which does not has price information by state. That's also roughly middle-of-the-pack performance, at least among the 150 metro areas the NAR tracks. (Prices in the Washington area are down 17 percent, according to its number-crunching. Sacramento, Calif. prices are down 36 percent.)

You Wonk commenters who have said sales will pick up when prices drop enough might be interested to see this part of the Realtors' press release:

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said a clear cause-and-effect response has developed in the housing market. “The biggest home-sales gains over the previous quarter have been in some of the markets with the steepest and fastest price drops,” Yun said.

The only states reporting year-over-year gains in sales? Nevada and California, which have been among the hardest-hit by the slump.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 2:43 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Number-crunching

June 13, 2008

Homebuilding in the region

Q. How many homes are companies getting permits to build in the Baltimore region?

A. A lot less than they did in 2005 and 2006, but only down a bit from 2007.

Here, have a chart:


Source: Maryland Department of Planning, U.S. Census Bureau.


Worthy of note: Seventy-five percent of the units approved from January through April 2005 were single-family homes. This year, it's 56 percent.

Also: Building permits were up in Baltimore County this year vs. 2005 -- unlike the rest of the region. Builders pulled permits for 594 homes, an increase of 15 percent from January-April 2005. The majority were not single-family.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 9:06 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

May 22, 2008

Maryland home prices: 8th biggest drop in nation

Maryland home sale prices in the first three months of the year dropped 4.8 percent from a year earlier, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said today. That's the eighth largest decline in the country.

Here's the bottom 10:

1. California, down 19 percent

2. Nevada, down 17 percent

3. Florida, down 15 percent

4. Arizona, down 11 percent

5. Michigan, down 8.9 percent

6. New Hampshire, down 5.1 percent

7. Minnesota, down 5 percent

8. Maryland, down 4.8 percent

9. Ohio, down 3.9 percent

10. Virginia, down 3.7 percent

You can see OFHEO's news release HERE and its data HERE. OFHEO says home sales prices are down 3.1 percent nationally, the largest drop on record. (In its press release, it has a ranking of the states that includes not just sales but also refinance mortgages, so it's a bit apples-to-oranges to the national figure. That's why I crunched the data to come up with a purchase-only ranking.)

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:31 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Number-crunching

April 26, 2008

Permit to build

Homebuilders have responded to the slump by pulling back on new inventory, as you all probably know quite well already. But they haven't done so in equal measure across the state and region.

So you can see that at a glance, I spent the morning making the Maryland Department of Planning's building-permit statistics more visual.

Here's the trend for residential permits statewide, first quarter 2000 through first quarter 2008:




Read on for the local experience ...

Continue reading "Permit to build" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:59 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

March 20, 2008

Population growth slows in metro area

The Baltimore metro area grew by about 4,000 people from the summer of 2006 to the summer of 2007, according to new Census Bureau estimates released today. That's the smallest number for a while -- at least so far this decade, which kicked off with a gain of 20,000 people -- and it's not just about city losses.

Growth slowed last year in Baltimore County, Carroll and Harford, the estimates suggest.

Census workers estimate a population decline of about 3,500 people in Baltimore City, which would be a setback from the slight gain in '06 if the figure stands. The city has routinely appealed the counts and ended up with higher numbers, and it anticipates challenging this time around, Kelly Brewington reports today.

Maryland's growth as a whole was slow, which the Baltimore Metropolitan Council's Dunbar Brooks attributes to the economy and housing prices, Brewington reports:

Even before the economy weakened, Maryland's high housing costs drove residents to neighboring states with more affordable housing, he said.

The number of people leaving both the region and the state is what struck me most about the census counts. In the Baltimore metro area, 8,600 more people moved out than moved in. The number of Marylanders moving out of state outnumbered people coming the other direction by about 18,500. In other words, the only true growth is coming from babies born to residents.

Look at the decade as a whole -- 2000 through 2007 -- and both the metro area and the state have more people coming in than out. That means the change has been fairly recent, and housing costs probably are playing a role.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

March 17, 2008

Foreclosure cases, county by county

If you're concerned -- or just curious -- about rising foreclosure numbers, you now have a new tool to track local trends from 2000 through 2007. I collaborated with Sun cartographer Christine Fellenz and our resident Flash whiz, Leeann Adams, on an online gadget that lets you see the changing number of foreclosure cases in each county and Baltimore City ... plus home sales, home prices, incomes and the share of prime vs. subprime.

Yes, this did take us a while to put together, and yes, I am feeling squintier than ever from checking all those numbers. A grateful thanks to Sun intern Megan Hartley for pitching in with the double-checking.

This information goes hand-in-hand with a story I wrote about foreclosure cases, which notes that many of the counties seeing the biggest increases are well-off and high-priced. Click on the link for the interactive tool and you'll see the story as well.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 9:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

February 23, 2008

Putting those home sales into perspective

As I was squinting at home sales records for a story, I noticed something about the city's drop in home buying: It hasn't been quite as dramatic as the slump in the metro area as a whole.

I mean that in a relative sense. Sales dropped about 30 percent in both the city and the metro area from 2005 -- the height of the boom -- through 2007, but city sales rose so much faster during the boom years that they're not back to pre-boom numbers.

Metro area sales last year fell just below the number of homes sold in 2000. City sales, on the other hand, were between '01 and '02 levels. That seems worth noting. I remember a housing advocate commenting during the boom that the real test of the city's new real estate strength would be a recession.

Read on -- or, rather, look on -- for visuals.

Continue reading "Putting those home sales into perspective" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:33 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Number-crunching

February 22, 2008

More affordable 'burbs

You've seen the most and least expensive ZIP codes in the metro area and the most and least expensive neighborhoods in the city. You might think that covers it. But wait, there's more!

When I sliced and diced the 2007 sales figures, I did some suburbs-only calculations. I went so far as to slice-and-dice the ZIP codes that are part-Baltimore, part-'burb.

That means I can reveal to you the most affordable suburban ZIPs. If you're set on suburban living but can't spend $300,000-plus on a house -- or if you're just curious -- then read on.

Continue reading "More affordable 'burbs" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:34 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

February 19, 2008

Most and least expensive -- city

If you glanced at the most and least expensive local ZIP codes in my post last week, you might have noticed that none of the priciest and almost all the cheapest were in the city. But here's the thing: Though ZIP codes are pretty good stand-ins for communities in the 'burbs, Baltimore is all about small neighborhoods. There are quite a few packed into most ZIPs.

So, without further ado, here are last year's most and least expensive city neighborhoods:

Continue reading "Most and least expensive -- city" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

February 15, 2008

Most and least expensive places of '07

Where was the most expensive ZIP code to buy a house in the Baltimore metro area last year? What about the least?

Why yes, I am going to tell you. But why don't you guess first. Go on ... I'll wait ...

Continue reading "Most and least expensive places of '07" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Number-crunching

February 10, 2008

Location, location, location

The metro area's modest increase in average home sale prices last year hid a lot of variation, which is why I spent time crunching and squinting to find out how 2007 treated individual ZIP codes and city neighborhoods. (Three cheers to our cartographer extraordinaire, Christine Fellenz, for plotting every city sale on a map to determine which of the many, many Baltimore neighborhoods it fell into.)

You can read the story HERE. Check out the interactive maps, too -- HERE for the metro-area ZIP codes and HERE for city neighborhoods.

As you know if you've been following along for a while, I fear the apples-to-kumquats comparisons that can happen when the homes that sold in a community last year are very different than the ones sold the year before. You can end up with a huge change in price just because it was all older rowhomes one year and newly built condos in the other, for instance.

So as usual, I threw out any ZIP or city neighborhood that didn't have at least 10 sales each year, figuring that would help. I also -- for my peace of mind -- did a separate analysis of all the areas with a large number of sales, just to see if the overall trend remained the same. It did. (Cue the sigh of relief.)

Just remember when you're checking out individual ZIP codes or city neighborhoods, though, that there could be factors at work more complicated than simple gains or losses in value. Some of that could be related to the market: A drop in a pricey area might signal that homes that were average in 2006 are sitting on the market now, having trouble finding a buyer, while less-pricey homes are getting contracts.

Overall, expensive areas were more likely to drop in average price last year while cheaper areas were more likely to rise.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 9:10 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Number-crunching

January 10, 2008

Our housing market, circa 2007

The keeper of the metro area's housing statistics expects to release 2007 numbers next month, but you -- you lucky Wonk readers -- can get a sneak peak. With December figures out today, I could calculate the annual results. (Preliminary, of course; Metropolitan Regional Information Systems often revises its numbers.)

So here's the deal:

The average price for homes sold in the region -- Baltimore and its five surrounding counties -- was about $317,000. That's up about 2.5 percent from 2006, the smallest increase since MRIS began tracking the metro area in the late '90s.

Sales fell about 20 percent, a bigger drop than 2006. The year started out looking like the market might pull itself out of the slump, but it ended significantly worse -- from a seller and macroeconomic perspective. Economists attribute the change to the 180-degree shift in lending.

Total sales: about 30,000. That's just above 1998, the first year on record.

See tomorrow's story for more details. I also did number-crunching that I couldn't fit into the article and will share it here once I get the time.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 5:51 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Number-crunching

December 27, 2007

Home sales near you: November

Curious to see how the housing market in your community is stacking up? Here's a way to look -- as promised.

Click HERE for an Excel file that shows ZIP codes in the Baltimore metro area, ranked by change in average price in November 2007 vs. November 2006.

Click HERE to see the ZIP codes ranked by change in sales.

Click HERE to see an alphabetized list.

You really only need one, of course: Once it's open, you can sort it whichever way you'd like.

Just remember that I've only included those ZIP codes with at least five sales in November 2007 and at least five sales in November 2006. That's my attempt to toss out the apples-and-watermelons comparisons that are much more likely when an area sees only a handful of sales (you can imagine the price skewing if a couple mansions sold in one month and a couple condos sold in the other).

Even so, there's almost certainly other examples of skewing. Keep that in mind, especially for ZIP codes showing huge swings, positive or negative.

The statistics are crunched from home sales data provided by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems. You can look up results of individual ZIP codes -- including days on market, which I don't have access to -- by going HERE. MRIS says the home sales database it provides me is newer and therefore more accurate than its look-up page, which should be why the two don't always agree.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:09 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Number-crunching

December 26, 2007

A closer look at local home sales

If you've been following along at home, you know that the Baltimore metro area's housing market had slightly lower average prices last month and a big drop in sales. But if real estate is really about location, location, location, wouldn't it be useful to know what happened at a more local level? 

I thought so, which is why I've just crunched the numbers that way. If you focus on the 87 ZIP codes in the metro area that had at least five sales last month and at least five sales in November 2006, according to data from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, here's what you'll see:

Continue reading "A closer look at local home sales" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 8:12 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

November 27, 2007

Home sales trends in your community

Step right up for this amazing, splendiferous, one-time-only, money-back opportunity you've all been desperately searching for: a way to compare and contrast the housing market in your ZIP code with all the rest!

All right, it's probably not amazing, it's certainly not one-time-only, and there's no money back because it's free. But I stand by splendiferous.

By popular request, I've crunched the October home sales tracked by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems so you can look at ZIP codes throughout the Baltimore area and see how sales numbers and average prices changed vs. a year earlier. (See this post for the big picture.)

Continue reading "Home sales trends in your community" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 9:15 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Number-crunching

November 26, 2007

Home sales in October: By the numbers



A new analysis -- by which I mean, of course, number-crunching and general squinting here at Wonk central -- shows that the big drop in Baltimore-area home sales in October was a pain felt in the vast majority of communities.

Here's a look at trends at the ZIP code level, taken from deals tracked by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems. I'm including the 87 ZIP codes that had at least five sales in October 2007 and at least five sales in October 2006:


Number of ZIP codes where home sales fell: 70

Number where sales rose: 10

Number with no change in sales figures: 7


Continue reading "Home sales in October: By the numbers" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 4:22 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

November 22, 2007

What's happened to construction jobs

Maryland's construction sector -- which includes commercial as well as residential -- has felt the hit of the housing market change. But commercial building has remained strong enough to help keep job growth positive.

Here's a snapshot of recent trends, with data from the U.S. Department of Labor. It's an October to October chart, so the 3,600-job growth listed for 2007 is Oct. 2006 through Oct. 2007:




As you can see, the most recent 12-month stretch has the least job growth since 2002 -- which, though it was the year after a recession, was actually a lousier time for employment growth across sectors in Maryland than 2001.

But it could be worse ...

Continue reading "What's happened to construction jobs" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:40 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Number-crunching

November 21, 2007

Us vs. them (how our housing market compares)

The National Association of Realtors' sales figures for the states continue to show an unusually sharp slowdown for Maryland. Home sales here in the third quarter -- July through September -- dropped nearly 30 percent from the same period last year, according to numbers released today.

Only three states saw worse numbers: Nevada, Florida and Arizona, often singled out as states particularly hard-hit by the bust. California, another state that tends to make the list, did slightly better than Maryland at fifth worst. (These are seasonally adjusted annualized numbers, in case you were wondering.)

The Realtors also released price data for the metro areas today. Single-family houses that sold in the Baltimore area in the summer had contract prices slightly above those sold a year earlier, up 1.7 percent. That ranked it 70th out of the 93 metro areas with reported price gains.

Just over 50 metro areas saw price drops. The biggest, at just over 12 percent, came in Palm Bay, Fla.

One reader asked about Cumberland, which was seeing big gains earlier in the year. (I wrote a story about it.) It's still fairly high up on the price-gain rankings, but it has dropped to No. 19, with a gain of about 7 percent. Bismarck, N.D. is tops at 15 percent.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:39 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

November 20, 2007

More slowing on the new-home front

New-home permits and starts just keep shrinking, a side effect of record-low levels of builder confidence.

The federal government released numbers today that suggest permits in October were down nearly 25 percent from a year earlier. Housing starts, the number of homes newly under construction, dropped about 16 percent from a year earlier.

But wait, you say: Housing starts in October were higher than they were in September! Up 3 percent! Isn't that good news?

Nope, sorry. The margin of error is nearly 11 percent, plus or minus, so you wouldn't want to bet money that October was actually better than September.

In a statement he put out about the data, economist Charles W. McMillion of MBG Information Services in Washington sums up the big picture for the single-family piece of the market:

There were only 884,000 new single-family homes started in Oct. 2007, the fewest monthly total since October 1991 and -33.8% fewer than the 1,336,000 homes started in January 1959 – the earliest data on record. The 807,000 new permits to construct single-family homes in Oct. 2007 were the fewest since November 1991 and -4.6% lower than in January, 1960 – the earliest data on record.


Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:51 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

November 9, 2007

Prices up, but sales way down

Average home prices rose just under 3 percent in the Baltimore metro area last month, but apparently at the expense of sales, which took the biggest year-over-year nose-dive on record. Buying dropped by about 32 percent compared with October 2006.

Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, which released the numbers today, has sales comparisons going back to March 1999.

The second-worst performance was in September of 2006, followed by September of this year. Economists attribute the increased problems in the last two months to the pullback in subprime lending, the rise in jumbo-loan rates and other mortgage trauma that hit in August.

In the good news/bad news department:

Continue reading "Prices up, but sales way down" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:50 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 25, 2007

New home sales: Good news and bad news

First, the good news: The pace of newly built single-family home sales nationwide picked up in September from the previous month, according to government estimates.

The bad news? Only because August's sales numbers were revised downward.

The federal government, which released the numbers this morning, said the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales last month was 770,000 homes, vs. 735,000 in August. Its original estimate for August was 795,000. (And, as The Big Picture blog points out, the so-called increase is well within the survey's margin of error.)

Sales fell about 23 percent compared with September of last year, the government estimated.

On the other hand, the inventory of unsold homes shrank. About 520,000 homes were for sale at the end of last month, down 15,000 from August and 40,000 from a year ago.

But -- there's always a "but" nowadays, isn't there? -- a growing number of those unsold homes are finished and sitting empty, rather than planned or under construction.

I feel like that old Simpsons sketch.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:02 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 24, 2007

Home sales down, inventory up

The National Association of Realtors said today that U.S. existing home sales in September dropped again, this time to the lowest level in at least eight years -- as far back as the group has statistics for all types of homes.

The seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales was a little more than 5 million. This time last year, it was 6.2 million.

Inventory has continued to climb as well. At the current pace of sales, it would take 10.5 months to strike deals on all the homes listed, the Realtors said. It was under 7.5 months this time last year.

MarketWatch notes that the inventory of single-family homes hit a 20-year high.

The NAR blamed the drop on the credit crunch, which intensified in August. "Some of the cancelled transactions will move forward as buyers apply for other loans," Lawrence Yun, NAR's senior economist, predicted in a statement.

Prices were also down last month. The average sales price dropped about 3 percent, to just under $258,000. The median price -- which represents the typical home, the one in the middle -- fell a bit more, about 4 percent.

Read on for a chart from Wachovia graphing how unsold home numbers have risen. (You'll see that they peaked in July. But because the pace of sales keeps slowing, the months needed to strike deals for all that inventory continues to rise.)


Continue reading "Home sales down, inventory up" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 23, 2007

A mortgage snapshot

The International Monetary Fund, which released a report about the lending environment (you can go directly to the PDF, or you can go to the website and scroll down to "Chapter 1"), included these sobering charts:



The IMF says:


Subprime delinquencies on the 2006 vintage have exceeded delinquencies on loans originated in 2000 at comparable seasoning (loan age)—the worst performing vintage in the recent past—and are expected to rise further if the historical pattern holds. Loans originated in 2007 do not have sufficient seasoning to gauge overall performance, but the loan attributes are similar to those issued on loans in 2006. Thus, some of the same risk layering characteristics endemic to the 2006 vintage appear to have persisted at least through the first half of 2007, despite reportedly tighter underwriting standards.

Calculated Risk pulled another chart from the report that shows scheduled resets for adjustable-rate mortgages. Click here to see it.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 6:55 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 19, 2007

Taking stock of homebuilder pain


Performance of U.S. homebuilders vs. S&P benchmarks



Standard & Poor’s Capital IQ put together this chart, which gives you a snapshot of how investors have run away from homebuilders' stock. The key is hard to see, I know: Purple is the S&P 500 Homebuilding Sub-Industry Index, red is the major U.S. homebuilders and blue is the S&P 500 index as a whole.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 5:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 18, 2007


Here's another way to look at housing affordability -- the Maryland Association of Realtors' first-time homebuyer index, a calculation that uses the income a first-time buyer is likely to have (rather than the average wage overall) and the price of a starter home. The most recent index is for the second quarter, April through June.

First-time buyers had just under half the income they'd need to purchase a typical starter home, according to the index.

Thanks, Kevin of the Baltimore Housing Bubble blog, for pointing it out. Last I checked, it hadn't been updated for months.


Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 2:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

Salaries vs. home prices

The Labor Department just released wage figures for the first quarter of the year, January through March. Average wages in Maryland were $939 a week. (That's higher than the national average of $885, but our increase over last year wasn't as big as the U.S. average.)

So: $939 works out to a little more than $4,000 a month before taxes. How much of that would you need to spend if you bought the average Baltimore-area home in March, priced at just under $307,000?

About 46 percent. (It's over 50 percent for the average home in Maryland.)

That's assuming a 6.5 percent interest rate on your mortgage and a 5 percent down payment. And the figure doesn't include escrow -- the annual property taxes and insurance.

You'll hear different advice about how much of your before-tax income to spend on housing, whether purchase or rental, but the definition of "affordable" is usually in the neighborhood of 28 to 30 percent a month.

At least a couple working in average Maryland jobs could have swung a purchase of that average March home.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 17, 2007

Housing permits and starts fall

In more negative (but hopefully not confusing) news, the federal government said today that building permits issued in September for new homes fell nearly 26 percent from a year earlier. Housing starts fell more than 30 percent from a year ago to levels not seen since 1993.
Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 10:15 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Number-crunching

Builder confidence falls to record low

The National Association of Home Builders, which released its monthly housing market index yesterday while I was busy on assignment, said builder confidence in the single-family-home market "fell two more points to 18 in October, its lowest point since the series began in January of 1985":
“Builders in the field are reporting that, while their special sales incentives are attracting interest among consumers, many potential buyers are either holding out for even better deals or hesitating due to concerns about negative and confusing media reports on home values,” said NAHB President Brian Catalde.

Feel free to take a show of hands in the comments about whether your Wonk is negative, confusing or both.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 9:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 16, 2007

Renter? One-out-of-three chance you moved last year

The Census Bureau just released new figures today that show how often people moved last year. For instance:

In 2006, nearly one-third (30 percent) of all people living in renter-occupied housing units lived elsewhere a year earlier. The moving rate for people living in owner-occupied housing units was 7 percent.

Census also said that 62 percent of movers didn't leave their county.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 10:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 15, 2007

Investors and city home sales

Investors -- rehabbers, landlords and plain speculators -- flooded into Baltimore City during the housing boom, sure they were getting great deals. So have they flooded right back out now that sales have dropped, prices are flat and some of them have defaulted on their loans?


The number of homes they're buying has decreased, but not back to pre-boom levels. I tracked activity in the first half of recent years with data from the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, which notes whether purchasers are regular homeowners or "non-owner-occupiers":


Perhaps you're wondering why the overall decline in homes sales isn't as dramatic as the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems numbers suggest. (Good eye, if so.) The most obvious explanation is that these represent all sales, not just ones listed with an agent. If you know of another reason, let me know.  

Or perhaps you're wondering why I didn't make a graph showing how the percentage of investor buys has changed. Actually, I did. So there. 

Read on ...

Continue reading "Investors and city home sales" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 1:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 11, 2007

Foreclosure numbers -- and what they don't include


Lloyd Fox / Sun staff


RealtyTrac released numbers today showing foreclosure "events" in Maryland last month -- default filings, notices of impending auctions and new bank-owned foreclosures -- increasing nearly fivefold from a year earlier. That's about 2,800 properties in danger of foreclosure or newly foreclosed upon.

But here's the thing: The company's grand total is almost certainly lower than reality. That's because it has a hard time getting timely default notices from most courts in the state, so this part of the foreclosure process is being tallied only in some counties.

RealtyTrac, a California-based firm that acts as an online marketplace for foreclosed properties, believes it has good numbers in Maryland for the auction notices and homes taken back by lenders. So those are the figures to look at.

They're depressing, too, unless you're on the hunt for bargain buys.

Continue reading "Foreclosure numbers -- and what they don't include" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 11:18 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 10, 2007

This just in: Home sales numbers

Metropolitan Regional Information Systems has just released the September home sales numbers for the area. A quick rundown:

Home sales fell about 30 percent across the Baltimore metro area, while average prices rose almost 2 percent to $314,850.

Prices were up slightly in Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Carroll, but down about 4 percent in both Harford and Howard.


Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:16 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 3, 2007


A California real estate consulting company keeps a "housing cycle barometer" as a way to judge whether markets are overpriced, at least compared with their own history. John Burns Real Estate Consulting's index tracks income, home prices and mortgage rates from 1981 onward and assigns metro areas a number from 0 to 10 each month. Zero means it's the cheapest time to buy in that 26-year span. Ten is the most expensive.

Guess where Baltimore stands ...

Continue reading "Overpriced?" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 10:57 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Number-crunching

October 2, 2007

Pending home sales ... and sales no longer pending

The National Association of Realtors said this morning that pending home sales in August were down 6.5 percent from the month before and fell more than 20 percent from a year earlier. It was a record low for the NAR's index, which began in 2001, the Associated Press says.

The Realtors association said it could see the effects of the credit crunch that came to a head in August, affecting not only subprime borrowers but also those getting so-called "jumbo" loans of more than $417,000. Here's what Lawrence Yun, the NAR's senior economist, says in a statement:

Fewer contracts were being written because of mortgage availability issues, and a separate internal survey of our members shows more than 10 percent of sales contracts fell through at the last moment in August, primarily the result of canceled loan commitments. ... The impact was greater in high-cost markets that are more dependent on jumbo mortgages. In some areas, as much as 30 percent of signed contracts were falling through in August when the credit crunch problem peaked.

Yun says the problem is "less severe" now, “though jumbo loan rates are still higher than they would be under normal conditions."

Investors who supply the money that a variety of lenders use for mortgages are leery of jumbo loans in this new, trickier lending environment, mainly because they no longer feel comfortable with loans that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won't buy. That's driven up interest rates.

Because the pending home sales survey is national, there's no data on Maryland. But it's a state with a lot of higher-cost houses.

The Mortgage Bankers Association says about 11 percent of loan applications in Maryland are for jumbo mortgages. Only seven states and the District of Columbia have higher shares.

Edit at noon: Just talked to Walter Molony, a spokesman for the Realtors association, and he said the Baltimore area isn't feeling the jumbo-loan problem keenly. It's not that no local folks are affected -- you can find plenty of pricey homes here -- but the average price of resales is about $325,000, well below the jumbo mark.

The more expensive Washington area, however, is among those markets that took a bigger hit, he said.

"It's been a fairly broad impact in higher-cost areas," Molony said. "We're looking for a gradual improvement in the fourth quarter."

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 10:12 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Number-crunching

September 28, 2007

Home sales over the years

Out of professional interest and innate curiosity, I pulled home sales numbers from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc. to see how the first half of this year stacks up with history. (History being a relative term: MRIS, which runs the multiple listing service, has data for the Baltimore metro area only back to March 1999.)

You can really see why sellers are feeling the pinch.

Here's one of the graphs I worked up:


But perhaps even more telling is what happened to the unsold home numbers.

Continue reading "Home sales over the years" »

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 1:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

September 27, 2007

Downward ho

New home sales in August plummeted 21 percent nationwide from a year earlier, the Commerce Department estimated today. That's a seven-year low, though it might be somewhat better or much worse because the estimated drop has a heck of a margin of error: plus or minus 9 percent.

Average prices for single-family homes fell 8 percent  the biggest drop since August 1990.

But The Washington Post reports today that Montgomery County prices zoomed the opposite direction in the first quarter of the year, topping $1 million on median price. (Yes, that means half the new homes are even more expensive.)

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 12:04 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching

September 25, 2007

National gloom and doom

Two depressing information dumps today: The National Association of Realtors reported that U.S. home sales in August dropped to their lowest level in five years, while the S&P/Case-Shiller index which tracks repeat sales of single-family homes found sizable price losses in major metro areas in July.

The NAR numbers also showed the months' supply of unsold homes rising to its highest level in 18 years.

The Case-Shiller index doesn't track Baltimore, but it does include the Washington metro area. Prices there dropped about 7 percent in July compared with the same month last year, according to the index. Overall, prices in the 20 metro areas Case-Shiller follows fell nearly 4 percent, with the worst drops in Detroit, Tampa and San Diego.

Posted by Jamie Smith Hopkins at 7:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Number-crunching
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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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