Posted: 24 Jan 2011 04:00 AM PST
We are beginning 2011 with much more positive news about real estate than we have had in several years. The pending sales numbers (houses going into contract) have been climbing for several months. Last month’s Existing Homes Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors showed an increase of over 12%. Demand definitely seems to be increasing. Does that mean prices will begin to appreciate? Probably not. Though buyers have finally come out of hiding and started to purchase homes again, an increased inventory of distressed properties is also emerging from the shadows. These houses will impact prices.
Prices are determined not by demand alone but instead by the relationship of demand to the supply of inventory available. We are talking about the ‘shadow inventory’ of homes that will come to market at discounted prices when they are sold as short sales or foreclosures. This inventory has swelled to several million units.
When will this begin and what impact will it have on prices?
Over the last year, banks have been slowly releasing this inventory to the market being careful not to release too great a number in fear of driving down house values even further. Over 25% of all sales in 2010 involved a distressed property. The numbers increased as the year went on with 33% of all sales in November being in this category. In December, that number jumped to 36%! It now seems that banks are preparing to increase the flow of such properties to the market.
Last month, CNBC reported on economist Nouriel Roubini’s predictions on this issue:
“There has been an effective moratorium on foreclosure,” said Roubini.
And the beginning of the end of that moratorium means more housing supply is about to become available on the market.
“The shadow inventory of not-yet-foreclosed homes—due to the moratorium—will surge in the next year,” Roubini says.
Bank of America said:
…it resumed foreclosure sales in most states that have a non-judicial process, but the bank won’t restart sales in judicial states until sometime in the first quarter.
And Housing Wire reported last week that Fannie Mae “directed its mortgage servicers to delay scheduled foreclosure sales 45 days” for borrowers trying to get assistance through certain government programs.
What impact will this have on prices? Wells Fargo projected that house prices will drop 8% by mid-year. Fannie Mae and Bank of America have also predicted price depreciation for the first half of 2011.
Should I wait to purchase?
Not necessarily. Remember, sellers should sell now before prices do begin to fall. However, as a purchaser, you should look at cost. With interest rates on the rise, waiting may result in a higher monthly mortgage payment even with a lower sales price.
As a good example, Mr. Roubini, who was mentioned above, just sold his home and upgraded to a more expensive residence. Get counsel from a mortgage professional before you consider delaying a purchase.
If you are looking to sell, you probably want to do it before this ‘surge’ of discounted competition comes to market.