In this section:
● Home Foreclosures Soar 22 Percent in First Quarter
● Home Sales Slipped Again in March
● Home Prices Fall Most Since 2012
HOME FORECLOSURES SOAR 22 PERCENT IN FIRST QUARTER
Foreclosures on U.S. homes leaped 22 percent in this year’s first quarter, year over year, according to real estate data service ATTOM.
The period’s end marked 22 consecutive months in which foreclosures rose on an annual basis.
Homeowners have been hit by the parallel rise in interest rates and consumer prices. Also, foreclosures are still working their way through lenders’ bureaucracies after COVID-era government bans on foreclosures ended in mid-2021.
An estimated two million homeowners fell behind on mortgage payments during the COVID War.
“However, with many homeowners still having significant home equity, that may help in keeping increased levels of foreclosure activity at bay,” ATTOM CEO Rob Barber said in a statement.
Major metro areas saw the largest number of foreclosures. New York City registered 4,674, Chicago 3,549, Los Angeles 2,210, Houston 2,120, and Philadelphia 1,985.
Cities with the highest foreclosure rates were Fayetteville, NC; Cleveland; Atlantic City; Columbia, SC; and Bakersfield, CA.
As a percentage increase, Michigan led the list with 41 percent more foreclosures in the first quarter, year on year.
In January, 24 of the 30 metro areas showing the highest foreclosure rates also showed median household incomes below the national median of about $71,000, ATTOM reported.
Unemployment rates topped 5 percent in nine of the 30 areas, according to December 2022 federal data.
TREND FORECAST: As noted above, homeowners have much more equity in their homes now than they did then. Also, far fewer homeowners have variable-rate mortgages; many buyers locked in low-interest rates before the U.S. Federal Reserve raised its key rate above 2 percent.
For these reasons, we still do not see a major 2008-style housing market crash even though the number and rate of foreclosures have increased.
HOME SALES SLIPPED AGAIN IN MARCH
In March, sales of previously owned homes were 2.4 percent fewer than in February and down 22 percent year over year, the National Association of Realtors reported.
Sales of homes costing $1 million or more skidded 29 percent; houses priced from $250,000 to $500,000 dropped 14 percent.
Twenty-seven percent of sales were all cash, compared to 28 percent in February.
First-time buyers made up 28 percent of March sales, compared to 30 percent a year earlier. Historical norms pre-COVID saw about 40 percent of sales go to first-timers.
Investors accounted for 17 percent of buyers, sharply fewer than the 25 percent peak reached last summer.
Rising interest rates over the past year have added hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars to monthly mortgage payments at a time when home prices remain near historic highs.
The U.S. national average interest rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell below 6 percent in late January but ended March at 6.85 percent, according to Mortgage News Daily (MND).
It stood at 6.59 percent on 24 April, according to MND.
“Home sales are trying to recover and are highly sensitive to changes in mortgage rates,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement announcing March’s figures.
“At the same time, multiple offers on starter homes are quite common,” he added, “implying more supply is needed to fully satisfy demand.”
On 31 March, about 980,000 homes were up for sale, a 1-percent gain from February and 5.4 percent more than a year earlier.
That is due largely to homes remaining on the market longer now—an average of 29 days, compared to 17 days in March last year, the NAR noted.
The figure represents a 2.6-month supply, the NAR said. A six-month supply is said to balance the market between buyers and sellers.
There were 41 percent fewer houses for sale last month than in March 2019. New listings were down 17 percent from March 2022.
“Affordability is not only an issue for first-time home buyers but also for many repeat buyers who still need to take on a mortgage,” Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com, said to CNBC.
Eighty-two percent of people wanting to sell feel “locked in” by their current low-interest rate, she added.
TREND FORECAST: The housing market will perk up as inflation continues to slow and when the U.S. Federal Reserve halts its campaign of rising interest rates.
However, the lack of inventory will continue to buoy prices, leaving the market closed to many young families and other first-time buyers for the foreseeable future.
HOME PRICES FALL MOST SINCE 2012
The median selling price of a U.S. home slipped 3.3 percent in March from a year earlier to $400,568, according to online brokerage Redfin.
The rate of decline was the sharpest since 2012 and most keenly felt in the San Francisco area as well as in so-called “zoomtowns” that boomed during the COVID War.
Prices fell most in Boise, down 15.4 percent. Austin’s median dropped by 13.7 percent, Sacramento’s by 11.9 percent, and San Jose’s by 10.5 percent.
However, prices in boomtowns such as Austin and Boise are still far above pre-COVID levels. Home prices in Boise shot up 40.9 percent in May 2021, year over year. Nationally, prices rose 26 percent, driven by low-interest rates and the transition to remote work.
Last month, buyers canceled about 55,000 purchase agreements or roughly 14.8 percent of sales contracts that were signed, Redfin said, compared to 11.2 percent a year previous.
“This year’s home-buying season is lackluster,” Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist, said in a statement.
“There are some signs of the typical seasonal uptick – homes are selling faster than they were in the winter,” he noted, “but that’s partly because there are so few new listings. Normally, we see home buyers come out in throngs at this time of year, which isn’t happening.”