Home prices keep rising, but rate of increase slackens
(Curious about your local area? Please visit my website for the latest market trend graph here )
WASHINGTON — U.S. home prices rose at a faster year-over-year pace in October than in September, snapping a seven-month slowdown. And in the Portland-Vancouver area, they rose a little faster still.
Real estate data provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that prices increased 6.1 percent in October compared with 12 months earlier. That was up from September's year-over-year increase of 5.6 percent.
Still, home values are rising more slowly than they were earlier this year, when 12-month gains were averaging nearly double their current pace.
In the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro area, CoreLogic reported that home prices rose 7.7 percent on an annualized basis in October — but declined 0.2 percent from September.
The price momentum began to tail off in the middle of the year as home values in more cities and states neared the record highs last seen shortly before the Great Recession began in late 2007.
Higher prices have reduced affordability, especially because the incomes of many would-be buyers have yet to match their pre-recession levels. Lending standards also remain comparably tight.
Previous price increases led investors to pull back from the home market, and first-time buyers have yet to fill the void created by their departure.
Price growth will likely remain mild as a result, CoreLogic said. The firm projects that home values will rise 5.1 percent over the next 12 months. Roughly half the country's homes will match or surpass their pre-recession prices by mid-2015, it predicts.
Every state reported a price gain in October. CoreLogic said prices reached new highs in Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. In 27 states, home values are within 10 percent of their previous peaks.
There are still pockets of the country — including parts of Texas, Seattle and Denver — where prices are rising faster than in the rest of the country because of their relatively strong job markets, incomes and home prices, said Sam Khater, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic.
Other real estate companies have forecast a sharper slowdown in price gains next year.
Zillow, the online home marketplace, released estimated Tuesday that home values will rise a mere 2.5 percent nationwide in 2015. That slowdown should ultimately help bring more buyers into the market and increase sales, said Stan Humphries, Zillow's chief economist.
-The Associated Press (Oregonian)
Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on April 8th, 2014 at 4:18 pm
Portland's enthusiasm for building small and tiny homes has been so abrupt, so unusual and so locally unique that the home mortgage industry hasn't figured out how to take advantage of it.
But people in both government and real estate who see accessory dwelling units as a boon for affordable density in bike-friendly, walkable parts of town are trying to help lenders catch up. And there are signs that it's working.
As we reported last month, Portlanders are responding to the surging demand for local housing by building and/or permitting hundreds of accessory dwelling units. One in 10 new homes in some inner north and Northeast neighborhoods is an ADU, a city specialist says.
This is the latest part of a story we've been covering here on BikePortland for years: the ways Portland can keep creating the proximity that makes biking pleasant not just to high-rise dwellers but to those who prefer freestanding homes.
Portlanders, city data show, have taken the problem into their own hands. And yards.
People's seemingly boundless hunger to live in Portland, especially its bike-friendly eastside grid, will keep the apartment construction market booming in 2014, a local real estate expert says.
But that'll keep rents from rising quite as fast as they have been, he predicted.
"It looks like 2014 will again be all apartments, all the time," Greg Frick of HFO Investment Real Estate said in a talk at the Multnomah Athletic Club, echoing his firm's motto.
The surge of new units entering the market, he added, will probably drive up vacancy rates slightly and slow the rise of rents. Market-rate rents will probably grow a bit more slowly than the 6.6 percent hike the area saw in 2013, which was the third-highest rent increase in the country.
Mortgage rate projections
Analyst projected rate
Fannie Mae 5.0%
National Assoc. of Realtors 5.1%
Fraddie Mac 5.1%
Mortgage Bankers Assoc 4.9%
Portland home prices are on the rise and so are the interest rates. The cost of waiting could cost you hundreds in monthly payments.
The median list price in PORTLAND, OR this week is $319,000.
Here is a little article from the Oregonian.
Portland area home prices rise faster than U.S. average
Portland-area home prices rose 15.5 percent in July compared with a year ago and 1.9 percent from June.
The gains, reported Tuesday by the data firm CoreLogic, outpaced the nationwide average. U.S. home prices were up 12.4 percent year over year and 1.8 percent for the month.
Home prices have made record gains this year in their rebound from housing-crash lows. They've been boosted by a small supply of homes for sale, pent-up demand from buyers who waited out the crash and low mortgage rates.
But the year-over-year gains are expected to slow as mortgage rates rise and as seasonal demand slows, CoreLogic said.
Excluding foreclosed homes and homes in short sales, prices in the Portland area were up 13.6 percent from a year earlier and 1.5 percent compared with June.
Observers have said sales tinged by foreclosure have exaggerated other measures of home-price appreciation. Such properties once sold for a deep discount relative to other homes, but that price slashing has declined as the market has improved.
Across the U.S. bicycle commuting grew 47% between 2000 and 2011. However, in cities that are making investments in bicycle infrastructure and education (which includes all of the Top 10 Bike Score cities listed above), bicycle commuting has grown 80% over the same period. This trend is leading a growing number of multi-family developers to build bike-friendly housing with secure storage spaces for bicycles and even putting repair shops in the buildings.
Click here for Portland Bike Score Heatmap
Top 10 Most Bikeable Large U.S. Cities
1. Portland (Bike Score: 70.3)
2. San Francisco (Bike Score: 70.0)
3. Denver (Bike Score: 69.5)
4. Philadelphia (Bike Score: 68.4)
5. Boston (Bike Score: 67.8)
6. Washington D.C. (Bike Score: 65.3)
7. Seattle (Bike Score: 64.1)
8. Tucson (Bike Score: 64.1)
9. New York (Bike Score: 62.3)
10. Chicago (Bike Score: 61.5)
(Note: to keep our rankings apples-to-apples the list above only includes cities with 500,000 or more residents.)
If you have not seen this article from the Oregonian, check it out. You can see the most current statistics of your area by visiting the local market trends tab on my website.
Housing market waking up in a new normal for real estate
After the longest, darkest period in a generation, the housing market is buzzing again.
But if you haven't looked to buy or sell in a few years — and who could blame you? — things have changed. A lot.
Foreclosures, once scarce and best avoided, now offer deals to savvy buyers who are willing to risk some inconvenience.
And the free-flowing home loan money that aided and abetted the bubble frenzy? Long gone.
For those who tuned out as the market turned down, here's a guide to the new normal in real estate.
The Internet Age has not been kind to middlemen, and while real estate agents are still firmly entrenched between buyers and sellers, their role in helping one find the other is shrinking.
In 2011, for the first time, more homebuyers found the place they would eventually buy online than through any other channel, including real estate agents, according to the National Association of Realtors. As recently as 2004, more buyers found their eventual homes from yard signs than any other source.
Consumer real estate websites such as Zillow, Trulia and Redfin have not only brought real estate listings into our living rooms and offices, but they've turned on a fire hose of information. What's for sale, which ones recently sold and even what places haven't been on the market in decades.
"More and more buyers are walking into the real estate agent's office with a printout of the homes they'd like to see," said Brian Allen, president of Windermere Cronin & Caplan Realty Group. "In some ways, the real estate brokers are losing the war for first contact, for eyeballs."
That's not to say real estate agents are headed the way of the dinosaur. The Realtors also report that 89 percent of buyers bought their home through an agent.
And real estate agents do maintain one advantage: a direct line into listings posted by fellow real estate agents, which means speedier updates and more complete coverage.
Redfin, a Seattle-based firm that tries to bridge the gap between the real estate dot-coms and the traditional real estate agency with living and breathing agents, commissioned a study last year that found its listings, along with those of other brokerages, were more complete than those of Zillow and Trulia. One-third of the homes listed for sale on those sites were no longer available.
Homebuyers are increasingly relying on instant mobile alerts offered by most real estate websites when properties that meet their needs come on the market. "If you're waiting for your Realtor to tell you about a house, you're going to see it two days after it's already gone," said Jeff Bale, Redfin's managing broker for Portland and Vancouver.
Zillow hangs its hat on an automated valuation of every home in its database, regardless of whether the home is for sale. It calls itself a media company, and its independence helps it to stay objective.
"Real estate will remain a very agent-mediated business," said Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow. "But all the participants in that business should be armed with as much information as they can, and they should be armed with equal information."
Each of the sites has added new features in recent months in an attempt to distinguish itself from its peers.
Traditional real estate firms are adding new features to their web platforms, too, and they're trying to tap into the tech-infused needs and wants of their customers while reinforcing the value of the real-world tours and open houses.
"I think we'll start seeing more agents bringing in tech during open houses," said Janelle Isaacson, owner of Living Room Realty. "I can see at open houses wanting to have an iPad that brings up the six closest houses for sale. Once the client has had that in-person experience, this will deepen that experience."
Before the real estate bubble burst in 2007 and 2008, few homeowners would take a second look at a foreclosure. They were few and far between, and those available were often properties neglected beyond repair.
By the middle of the crash, though, foreclosures accounted for one-third of all home sales in the Portland area, and they were selling cheap.
But the landscape has changed again since then, and homebuyers often don't find the deep discounts they were expecting. And if they do find bargain-basement pricing, it often comes with homes that have been vacant for months or years and are showing signs of neglect. Some have been damaged by vandals.
"There's a terrific bargain there, but it's a sweat equity situation," said Brian Allen, owner of Windermere Cronin & Caplan Realty Group. "You have to be the kind of person willing to pay someone to do all this work, or do it themselves, and that's not your typical homeowner."
A homeowner willing to take on such a project will face hurdles funding it, too. During the bubble years, banks were willing to finance work on a fixer-upper as well as the purchase price of the home.
"The way the financing is, that's not so much an option anymore," said Jenelle Isaacson of Living Room Realtors, who had rehabbed some houses earlier in her career. "Now it feels like we're going to leave the flipping to the pros. People that make money on real estate have business plans and experience, and the competition is fierce."
Short sales — a way for underwater homeowners to escape a mortgage they can't afford — have created some middle ground.
In a short sale, the lender agrees to accept the sale price of a home to pay off the mortgage and forgives the remainder of the debt. Banks have started to embrace short sales as a preferable alternative to foreclosure. And they leave underwater homeowners with less of a hit to their credit score than a foreclosure.
Short-sale properties are often in better condition than bank-owned foreclosures because the seller typically still lives in the home. But they come with pitfalls, too. Once a buyer and seller have reached agreement in a short sale, the bank has to give its OK, which can take time.
"You can negotiate with the seller in a matter of days, but then it can take weeks or even months before you can get lender approval," Allen said. "And you can wait in line for weeks only to hear the bank doesn't agree."
When it comes to competition, sellers have it easy. Inventory is at a low not seen since the bubble, and home prices that are still deflated despite recent run-ups are keeping many from hopping on the bandwagon just yet.
But first-time buyers who have waited out falling home values for years are now scrambling to take advantage of low prices and interest rates.
And they're not alone. Investors are snapping up the same properties popular among first-time buyers — low-priced, centrally located starter homes — to turn into rentals.
"For the first-time homebuyer, the competition is pretty miserable," Living Room Realty owner Jenelle Isaacson said.
Investors, who have a keen sense of where their profit margins lie, aren't likely to get mixed up in bidding wars.
But they bring cash to the table. And when a traditional buyer and an investor face off with competing bids, cash is king.
"A mortgage is a possible close," said Brian Allen of Windermere Cronin & Caplan Realty Group. "Cash is a sure close."
The fierce competition over a dwindling number of properties has left the Portland area, for the past year, with less than a five-month supply of homes on the market for a year. Six months of supply suggests a balanced market, so February's 4 1/2 months shows one tipped decidedly toward sellers.
That shortage of inventory is part of what's driven prices higher in recent months.
As prices continue to rise, more homeowners who had been underwater and unable to sell their places will be able to join the market, and more current homeowners are expected to take a second look at moving up or relocating.
Even so, most real estate watchers believe the inventory crunch will persist well into 2014.
And first-time buyers may soon face a new class of competition: former homeowners who went through a foreclosure or short sale early in the recession and want back in.
After several years, some have seen their credit scars begin to heal and saved up anew for a down payment.
"That's going to be another group of people those first-time buyers are going to have to compete against," said Jason Waugh, president of Prudential Northwest Properties. "Prices have not dramatically improved, so they can take advantage of this affordability again."
It's no surprise the subprime mortgages and liar loans that helped inflate the bubble are gone. But even seemingly qualified buyers may have some trouble securing financing these days.
The average credit score for an approved mortgage was 745 in February, according to mortgage industry software provider Ellie Mae, and home loans are virtually nonexistent for borrowers with credit scores below 620.
Those who qualify are still going to need to bring a big chunk of change to the table, too; 20 percent is the average across all approved loans.
"The big scene is, you gotta have a down payment," said Mickey Lindsay, vice president of Oregon First Realtors. "That's a pretty big deal for a lot of first-time homebuyers."
And it's not just a matter of credit history and current employment. Underwriters are now taking a look at factors such as the stability of the industry in which an applicant works. The self-employed may have a rough time convincing lenders they can pay their loan in the long term.
"Lending standards are night and day when you compare now with before" the bubble burst, said Zillow's Stan Humphries. "But we've really seen a return to pre-bubble lending standards. They're widely bemoaned, but they don't look that crazy relative to 1990s standards."
Strict lending standards don't just affect buyers, either.
Lenders typically require an appraisal of a property before they'll make a loan. The appraisal is meant to ensure the buyer is putting in enough cash relative to the bank's share in the purchase and minimize risk to the lender if the borrower defaults.
But real estate agents say that appraisers often look with suspicion on prices pushed up by competing bidders. And if the appraisal falls short of the agreed price, it can leave buyers and sellers in a quandary.
A short appraisal will scuttle a deal unless either the buyer agrees to put down the difference in cash or the seller lowers the price, a tough proposition when would-be buyers were just beating down the door.
Skittishness over appraisals can also push sellers toward buyers with more cash to put down. Or, even better, all-cash buyers who don't need an appraisal.
"I think appraisers are going to have to be more creative and open-minded," said Jason Waugh of Prudential Northwest Properties. "If there's enough demand out there that's substantiated by multiple offers, maybe the market is there."
The conflict first appeared early in the housing recovery, when many recent comparable sales used by appraisers to determine values were foreclosures. It faded as more nonforeclosure comparable sales emerged, then returned when home prices started rising more rapidly than most observers and economists expected.
But that's exactly what's needed to keep a bubble from inflating all over again, Humphries said.
"Expecting that to be a completely frictionless environment is wishing for things to be like 2006, when appraisals had almost no real effect of helping lenders understand the future value of the asset being used to secure the loan," Humphries said. "Appraisals are in some sense meant to be a check on the market."
AS THE SPRING home-selling and buying season commences, most good news lies in the future. How far? Nobody knows for sure.
Yet if you scan our annual real estate grids with a magnifying glass, positive stories can be found: neighborhoods seeing upticks in value, median ages going down, median income going up. And last year, the number of homes sold actually increased by more than 8 percent in Portland and by 12 percent in its outlying suburbs. In neighborhoods that saw double-digit percentage price drops in home values—like the Pearl, Hillside, and Cathedral Park—sales increased by as much as 80 percent.
According to Gerard Mildner, director of PSU’s Center for Real Estate, these trends should inspire some cautious optimism for the future.
“There are more transactions happening, and fewer people have homes on the market,” he says. “That means there’s some upward pressure on prices.”
But the best news, Mildner says, is that the housing bubble made us wiser—and long-term investments may begin to trump opportunistic buying.
“Your decisions about owning a home should be about the neighborhood and the size of the home and whether that fits what you need. It shouldn’t be about whether it’s going to appreciate in value quickly.”
Finding that perfect neighborhood is tough—but we’re here to help.
Check out an interesting article from Portland Monthly below
Portland's Current Market Trends
The major movements within Portland's real estate market, from cash purchases to sustainable mixed-use developments.
New (Seasons) Math
Proximity to urban amenities seems to be the drumbeat of today’s highly desirable neighborhoods. But can having a grocery store or cinema within walking distance really raise the value of your home? In theory, yes, according to a 2007 Metro study. Using hedonic modeling (fancy math to measure complex behavior, like home buying), local real estate consultancy firm Johnson Gardner evaluated more than 400 Portland home sales in 2006 and determined that, indeed, some amenities appear to have a statistically significant impact on home price. Top of the list: cinemas, wine bars and shops, and specialty grocers. But appraisers haven’t embraced the new math in their calculations. “There’s no standard adjustment for proximity to New Seasons,” says Mark Hepner, co-owner of Portland Residential Appraisals. “When you talk about the hip neighborhoods, you’re talking about areas that have diverse housing stock. When you try to narrow down your adjustment to a specific item, like a New Seasons, there’s not enough consistency in all the factors to make a fair comparison.”
Kings of Division
Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok might have captured the culinary heart of Division, but seven-year-old Urban Development Partners has claimed something more tangible—land. The development firm owns six properties on Division, between 31st and 39th, among them the Reliable, a LEED Gold-certified building with 13 residential units hoisted atop popular eateries like the Sunshine Tavern and Wafu. UDP came to Portland in 2006, after transforming Oakland’s historic Mutual Creamery building into 26 live-work spaces. Division immediately caught their eye. “When the city puts investment or intention behind an area—with tax incentives, up-zoning, even just cleaning up the streets—it’s a recipe for reinvention,” notes cofounder Eric Cress. The firm’s first Division Street building, the Richmond, opened in 2008, anchored by the Victory Bar. Next came Reliable, in 2010, followed by a 26-unit LEED Platinum mixed-use building at 38th and Division in 2011. Up next: a 39-unit building at 3339 SE Division St, slated for completion this fall. (Salt and Straw and St. Honoré have already signed up for ground-floor retail spaces.) And in 2014, UDP will debut two more mixed-use projects at 3360 and 3330 SE Division St.
An ADU Explosion
When the Portland City Council approved waiving system development charges and upped the maximum size of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to 75 percent of the main house in April 2010, the number of completed backyard cottages grew by more than 30 percent: from 52 in fiscal year 2009 to 70 in 2010 and 104 in 2011. The savings—typically several thousand dollars per dwelling—helped encourage a wave of these backyard bargains, but so did the emergence of an übertight rental market. And since the city voted to extend the waiver for another three years, look for more of these charming cottages coming to a backyard near you.
In Portland’s low-inventory real estate market, money doesn’t just talk—it screams. Fully a quarter of all home purchases made in 2011 and 2012 were cash purchases. No financing, just dollar signs. “It’s basically investors getting into the market,” explains Jerry Johnson, principal at Johnson Reid real estate consultancy firm. “They see huge buying opportunities. When cash buyers come in, it typically means they’re reading bottom of the market.” It can be good business for builders, as Keller Williams principal broker Nick Krautter points out: “You can pay $250,000 to $300,000 for a house, tear it down and build another, and still make money,” he says. “That wasn’t the case two years ago.” The proliferation of cash buyers can be frustrating for buyers looking to finance a home, since cash deals are often more attractive to sellers. Krautter relates the story of a recent listing in the low $300,000 range that garnered six offers within 48 hours, all well above the listing price. Two of them were cash offers (and one of those won out). “Sellers are really looking at the bottom line,” he notes. But as the number of foreclosure properties on the market continues to decrease, Michael Hasson of Hasson Company Realtors expects to see cash sales level off.
In the rent-controlled Big Apple, where vacancy rates regularly dip below 2 percent, and competition for the city’s apartments verges on all-out warfare, employing a leasing agent to hunt down a rental is about the only way to ensure you score a dream (or at least cockroach-free) apartment. With similarly low vacancy rates here, it was only a matter of time before the practice arrived in Portland. “We’ve found the need and request for rental location service to be increasing as the rental market continues to be competitive,” says Jenelle Isaacson, founder of the fast-growing firm Living Room Realty. So the firm, along with a few others, began offering “relocation services.” For a $500 deposit (applied toward your total fee—one month’s rent once you find an apartment) a Living Room agent will research, preview, and photograph potential properties for you. Goodbye, Craigslist. Hello, home.
When the market crashed, many called the city of Happy Valley "Death Valley" because of all the vacant homes and overgrown yards. Now, I'm seeing clients that like the lower price per square foot, views of city and mountains, and one of the top school districts in the Portland Area.
The prices have remained relatively stable this week in the Happy Valley area with the curent median list price is $389,900. Check out this article from last Sunday in The Oregonian.
Good fortune of Happy Valley homeowners reflect rise of housing market
on February 22, 2013 at 7:49 AM, updated February 22, 2013 at 10:57 AM
Heidi Caniparoli counts her family as one of the lucky ones. It took time and effort, but they, like her town's housing market, are coming back. The Caniparolis have a home again.
In Happy Valley, one of the Oregon cities hardest hit by the housing crisis, default notices and building permits are back to the pre-recession levels of a decade ago. The Caniparolis, along with local homebuilders and city officials, feel they've turned a corner.
Happy Valley was booming in 2005. The city of about 15,000 people was building twice as many homes as the year before. Caniparoli was happy in her large home, which fit her, her husband, three teenagers, her mom and her mother-in-law. The Caniparolis had a big backyard, and things were good. Until her mother in-law died suddenly.
Without the extra income she was paying in rent, the mortgage became something the family couldn't afford.
"We hung onto it as long as we could, but the market was changing in Happy Valley," Caniparoli said.
The market was changing everywhere. Foreclosures skyrocketed and new construction halted in Happy Valley. With such a boom in the early 2000s, the housing crash shook the city's foundation.
"Happy Valley just became a ghost town. All of the foreclosures and for-sale signs. There was no new construction at all," Caniparoli said.
The town went from having 572 homes built in 2005 to just 70 in both 2009 and 2010. Meanwhile, the neighbors who remained were beginning to get default notices on their home loans. The county sent out about 850 notices in 2005. That ballooned to almost 3,700 by 2010.
The Caniparolis had a lot of competition when they listed their home. Their house was one of many with a sign stuck in the grass out front. They bought their home for $450,000. Over the few years they owned it, they put more than $30,000 into it. Their real estate agent told them the improvements weren't enough to sell the home in such a tough market; they needed to add new carpeting, new granite countertops and paint the walls of the 3,600-square-foot home. They did.
They were told to paint the outside of the home too, but couldn't afford to. "We were competing against so much. It made it so hard to sell," Caniparoli said.
The family fell further behind on mortgage payments and worried about losing the house altogether. After a year with no sale, foreclosure seemed to loom, and they started talking about a short sale.
"Then we all of a sudden got a buyer," Caniparoli said. "It was a huge relief."
A huge relief, but the Caniparolis lost money. They invested $480,000, and the house sold in October 2008 for about $485,000. When you take out the real estate agent fees and other expenses, "we lost everything," Caniparoli said.
The family then moved into an apartment and struggled to adjust to their new way of living. An apartment was an embarrassing step down from ownership. A down payment on a home seemed far off, as did restoration of their credit score, which needed boosting after some late mortgage payments.
The family took time to recover. So did Happy Valley.
By 2010 the Caniparoli family began looking into buying a home again. The city too seemed to get a little more hopeful.
The contractors who were left in town — and there were only a handful — began building a few homes at a time and selling them. The grocery store parking lot stopped looking so desolate. Once again, Caniparoli battled a little traffic on her way to work.
With a low credit score and one child off to college, money was tight. Then she found Tony Marnella.
Marnella owns Monza Homes, one of those few builders still left in Happy Valley. He offered the Caniparolis the option to lease the townhouse they wanted to buy while they saved up for their down payment. The family moved in February 2010 and bought the $260,000 home in August that year.
At that point Marnella too was coming out of his low point. He bought the company in 2007 when the market was good. By 2009 he was selling the homes he built below cost. Two years after that he sold eight homes. Last year he, like Caniparoli and the city, began to really see the comeback. He sold 18 homes. Not his best year. Not his worst.
By some measures the city's housing market is back to what was normal before the boom years of 2005-06 and the subsequent crash. Default notices are on par with 2003 numbers; fewer, actually. Building permits are returning to 2003 levels too; more, actually. The city's building official, Matt Rozzell, said it's been slow and steady growth, although faster than in surrounding towns.
"Happy Valley is a great community, and it's exciting to see it come back. We got hit so hard, so early. It was Unhappy Valley," Marnella said.
Home prices are still far off the highs of six or seven years ago. About 1 in 8 Happy Valley homeowners are delinquent on their mortgages, and many more are underwater. But Marnella and the Caniparolis say the worst is over.
For Caniparoli, leaving Happy Valley was never an option. Her husband went to North Clackamas schools. Her kids are established there. They love the city.
And now they don't have to worry about their landlord selling their living space and kicking them out. They don't have to ask someone whether they can paint the walls. They're home again.
We are seeing a lot of evidence that the market has turned the corner. The sales of already occupied homes on the rise, while the inventory of unsold homes is back at pre-crisis lows. Please visit "market sales trends" page on my website to view each county's latest trends.
2012 home sales: Best in 5 years
@CNNMoney January 22, 2013: 10:39 AM ET
Steady December home sales capped the best year for the U.S. real estate market in five years, according to an industry trade group report Tuesday.
The National Association of Realtors said that December sales of previously-owned homes came in just slightly below November's sales pace, but up 12.8% from a year ago. That brought full-year sales to 4.65 million, up 9% from 2011 and the best year for home sales since 2007, when there were 5 million homes sold just before the start of the recession.
Sales are being helped by a combination of strong market fundamentals — near record low mortgage rates, lower unemployment and a rebound in home prices, all of which are bringing in buyers into the market who had been waiting for it to hit bottom. The mortgage rates and years of depressed home prices have also combined to create the most affordable housing market on record, according to the Realtors group.
And the Realtors are predicting strong sales should continue into 2013 and beyond. It has a forecast for 5.1 million existing home sales this year, and 5.4 million next year.
The improved demand for homes in December led to the inventory of homes for sale to fall to 1.82 million homes on the market, the lowest supply since January 2001. One factor in tightening supplies is a drop in foreclosures and other distressed home sales, which made up only 24% of home sales in December compared to 32% a year ago. The tighter supply, and the drop in distressed sales, have helped to lift home prices so that the median sales price for the year rose to $176,600, up 6.3% from 2011. That's the biggest gain in prices in since the bubble year of 2005.
The rebound in the market for previously-owned homes is also showing up in the market for new homes, where sales rebounded to their highest levels since 2009, while housing starts reached the highest level since 2008.