Markets Seen Stabilizing This Year

RIS Media

11 January  2012

Home prices this year cease their decline and gain 0.2 percent across all markets as more and more individual markets stabilize in the months to come.

However, though national prices will be flat, some 40 percent of the top 50 markets it tracks will stabilize in 2012, forecasts Clear Capital, a provider of data and solutions for real estate asset valuation and risk assessment for large financial services companies.

Clear Capital recently reported a 2.1 percent year-over-year decrease in 2011 that was bolstered by a stabilizing of prices in the latter half of the year and decreasing REO saturation.

“Overall, 2011 was a relatively quiet year for U.S. home prices compared to the last five years,” says Dr. Alex Villacorta, director of research and analytics at Clear Capital. “With national prices down a little more than two percent for the year and sitting at their lowest point since 2001, our projections show that the current balance the market has found will continue through 2012.

“However, individual markets reacting to their local economic drivers exhibit a wide range of performance levels,” adds Dr. Villacorta. “Although the national numbers suggest markets are flat, when looking at individual metro markets it turns out only 24 percent of them showed signs of stabilization in 2011, while the others are still moving more dramatically higher or lower. What’s most interesting is that the lower segments of appreciating markets are driving much of the current price growth. In places like Florida, which have historically been hard hit, we are now seeing considerable activity in lower-end properties as demand continues to heat up.”

U.S. prices declined -0.4 percent in December on a quarter-over-quarter basis, showing the markets giving back some of the gains of the summer buying season. This is the first cooling off after six monthly reports showing minimal quarterly gains. In fact, the most recent six months of the year (June – December) saw national home prices flat at -0.1 percent.

While these national quarterly numbers for December fell slightly, half of the major markets covered saw quarterly gains. Dayton, Ohio checked in at the top of highest quarterly performers with a gain of 5.0 percent. On the downside, Atlanta, Ga. showed consistent weakness as December’s lowest performing major market with a loss of -8.4 percent quarter-over-quarter.

In addition to the relatively flat home price performance, national REO saturation rates at the end of 2011 reached a new yearly low at 24.8 percent. REO saturation was volatile early in 2011, and showed consistent declines and stability toward the latter half of the year.

On the national level, 2012 is expected to play out much like the last half of 2011, with a very subtle price change. A minimal decline in the beginning of the year is expected to turn into a meager gain by year’s end. At a more granular level, half of the 50 major metro markets are expected to post gains for the year, and individual metros will experience the full gamut of price movement, from double-digit growth to double-digit drops.

Double digit volatility can be seen with the two strongest markets, including Orlando with a healthy price increase of 11.7 percent, and Bakersfield close behind with a projected 11.1 percent increase. The deepest drops come from Atlanta with an expected drop of -14.4 percent, and Los Angeles with a predicted drop of -10.3 percent.

Florida markets are expected to extend their impressive 2011 performances into 2012. Miami and Tampa are projected to be among the five highest performing metros with 8.8 percent and 7.4 percent growth, respectively, and Jacksonville is forecasted to gain 4.3 percent, placing it at a respectable eighth among the top metro markets. The exceptional growth in these markets can be a result of several factors, including being hit especially hard in the downturn. While fighting back, they remain significantly off their highs of 2006. Other factors in play in these markets include large increases in the values of their lower priced homes (near double-digits for all markets) when compared to higher priced segments of the market, and a high percentage of all cash transactions (51.8 percent) when compared to other metros. This indicates a high degree of investor activity as they look for bargains in the region, driving up demand.

Although the range of movement for U.S. prices stabilized through 2011, prices have settled at the lowest level since early 2001. The forecast for 2012 shows home prices starting with a dip in the first quarter, improving in the spring and summer buying season, and continuing to climb to 0.2 percent overall growth for 2012.