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Nation's housing market still hurting

June 3rd, 2011 10:40 AM by Lehel S.

The nation's housing market continued to struggle during the first quarter of 2011, with home prices falling in 18 of the large metro areas tracked by Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city index.

That pushed national home prices back to their mid-2002 levels.

But while some metro areas posted declines of nearly 3 percent or more from the previous quarter, the Los Angeles region's home price index dipped only 0.3 percent.

The L.A. area also saw the second smallest year-over-year decline - just 1.7 percent.

"I think the floor in Los Angeles and Orange counties has been established for quite some time," said James Joseph, owner of Century 21 Ambassador and Coldwell Banker Ambassador in Whittier. "I think

we're seeing prices rise already, but not the double-digit craziness like before when we had subprime loans and third-party variables."

Prices fell in 18 of the 20 designated metro regions, pushing the National Home Price Index down 4.2 percent during the first quarter after falling by 3.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Hammered by foreclosures, a glut of unsold homes and the reluctance or inability of many to buy, the national index hit a new recession low. The first-quarter data was down 5.1 percent from the same period a year earlier.

"This month's report is marked by the confirmation of a double-dip in home prices across much of the nation," David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P indices, said in a statement. "Home prices continue on their downward spiral with no relief in sight."

In March, 12 cities - Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, Portland and Tampa - fell to their lowest levels as measured by the current housing cycle.

Joseph said local prices have been constrained by the inability of buyers to purchase a home. Scores of people have lost their jobs while others have had their hours

cut and aren't earning enough to handle a mortgage loan.

"There is a real issue here," he said. "Buyers can't stretch like they used to and they are being limited by the lenders. If you call up a lender on your own it's problematic. But if you call a Realtor, we know who is loaning now ... who is saying `yes.' There are fewer lenders doing that than there used to be."

Joseph also noted that 30 to 40 percent of home buyers these days are investors.

Of the 20 metro areas studied in the Case-Shiller report, Minneapolis fared the worst, with its home price index falling 3.7 percent during the first quarter of 2011. Its year-over-year decline of 10 percent was also the biggest annual drop in home prices.

But others cities also saw significant declines.

Phoenix posted an annual decline of 8.4 percent, Chicago and Portland's home price index fell 7.6 percent year over year, and Seattle's dropped 7.5 percent.

The only cities to post positive first-quarter improvements compared with the fourth quarter of 2010 were Seattle (up 0.1 percent) and Washington, D.C. (up 1.1 percent).

"Nationwide, we're still seeing a lot of distressed properties, and a lot of consumers have gone back into their foxholes," said Steve Johnson, who heads the Southern California region of Metrostudy, a real estate information and consulting firm. "They have not committed to the market."

Distressed properties - either bank-owned or short sales - are typically priced well below market value, Johnson said, and that continues to push overall market prices down in many areas.

Johnson said the L.A. area has fared better than most for obvious reasons.

"In the L.A.-proper area we have about 4 million people employed," he said. "So the sheer numbers of people and the fact that the area is almost built out in regard to new product makes for a real competitiveness. Consumers go after any distressed properties that become available. I don't think L.A. is going to double dip."

Figures from the California Association of Realtors show that Los Angeles County's median home price for April was $290,120, up from $282,170 the previous month and $289,710 a year earlier.

Posted in:General
Posted by Lehel S. on June 3rd, 2011 10:40 AM



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