Real Estate Market

Less filling 'double-dip' doom looms

(1/12/2011) -The writing from the October S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices is on the wall.

The home buyer tax credit is long kaput. Foreclosures blanket the housing market. Credit is as tight as a constrictor knot. Extended unemployment checks are keeping food on the table, but persistently high levels of joblessness remain the scourge of the economy.

Baby, it's cold outside .

The New Year is dawning on a so-called "double-dip" that will bring another round of home price declines to the little housing market that just couldn't.

"The double-dip is almost here, as six cities set new lows for the period since the 2006 peaks. There is no good news in October's report. Home prices across the country continue to fall. The trends we have seen over the past few months have not changed," lamented David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor's.

Those were the latest numbers from the S&P/CS HPI, in October, before the housing market went into it's seasonal deep freeze.

"Existing homes sales and housing starts have been reported for both October and November, and neither is giving any sense of optimism. On a year-over-year basis, sales are down more than 25 percent and the months' supply of unsold homes is about 50 percent above where it was during the same months of last year. Housing starts are still hovering near 30-year lows. While delinquency rates might have seen some recent improvement, it is only on a relative basis. They are still well above their historic averages, in both the prime and sub-prime markets," added Blitzer.

Indeed, the recent "OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) and OTS (Office of Thrift Supervision) Mortgage Metrics Report Third Quarter 2010" reveals the percentage of homeowners current on their mortgage payments rose to 87.4 percent during the period, compared to 87.2 percent a year ago, as perhaps the only good housing news to report.

• S&P/CS HPI revealed the 10-City Composite was up only 0.2 percent as the 20-City Composite fell 0.8 percent from their levels in October 2009.

• Home prices decreased in all 20 MSAs and in both Composites in October from their September levels.

• In October, with the Golden State shining most, only the 10-City Composite and four Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) -- Los Angeles (up 3.3 percent) , San Diego (up 3 percent), San Francisco (2.2 percent) and Washington DC (up 3.7 percent) -— managed year-over-year price gains.

• While the composite housing prices are still above their spring 2009 lows, six markets — Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Portland (OR), Seattle and Tampa — hit their lowest levels since home prices started to fall in 2006 and 2007, meaning that average home prices in those markets have tumbled below recent lows seen in most other markets in the spring of 2009.

"While not always consecutive months, twelve of the MSAs and both composites have posted at least six months of decline since the beginning of 2010. In addition 15 MSAs and both composites have posted three consecutive months of decline with October's report; a further sign that the few months of positive print earlier this spring were only a temporary boost," Blitzer.

It's not pretty.

• The OCC-OTS report reveals 1.2 million foreclosures were in the pipeline at the end of the third quarter last year, up more than 10 percent from a year ago.

• The number of newly initiated foreclosures in the third quarter increased to more than 382,000 -- 31.2 percent more than in the previous quarter and 3.7 percent more than a year earlier, according to the OCC-OTS report

• The number of completed foreclosures (with property ownership transferred) also increased to nearly 187,000 -- 14.7 percent more than in the previous quarter and 57.5 percent more than a year earlier.

At this point it simply may not matter what housing does or doesn't do.

Housing is certainly a cornerstone of the economy, but business investment is necessary to spur labor growth and lay mortar for the next great American economy.

Hunker down.


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