Housing Inventory Decreases

The number of homes for sale declined 2.4 percent in November in the metropolitan areas covered by ZipRealty Inc. In the last 25 years, the decline in November has averaged 1.8 percent.

The data doesn’t include New York, but Miller Samuel Inc., an appraisal firm, reports that inventory was down 7.1 percent from the end of October and down 18 percent compared to November 2008.

October was the first month since January to show a rise in bank-owned homes. The number of bank-owned properties declined over the summer because of efforts to prevent foreclosures. As time runs out for many families, the number of foreclosures is increasing.

As of the end of October, banks and mortgage investors had 639,000 foreclosed homes for sale across the U.S., Barclays Capital estimates. “We expect a rebound in distressed inventory in the coming months,” says Glenn Boyd, a senior analyst at Barclays.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, James R. Hagerty (12/09/2009)

Suburban Growth: Ending or Taking a Break?

Some housing trend spotters believe that America’s love affair with sprawling suburbs has ended.

“What we’re already seeing is these new, very cheaply made suburbs showing how little resilience they have to economic fluctuations. I see them becoming not only more desperate, I see them becoming potentially nonviable,” says Jeff Speck, an urban planner and co-author of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream.

The growth rate in outer-suburban counties fell to 1.6 percent in the year ending July 2008, down from 2.3 percent two years earlier, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by Brookings Institution demographer William Frey.

“I don’t think there’s as much will to build in distant suburbs as there was a generation ago,” says Robert Lang, a director at Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute. “I think it’s not as fashionable.”

But Lang cautions against writing suburbia’s obituary too quickly, pointing out that Americans like big yards and privacy that comes with them. He suggests that development of an economical and convenient transportation option like electric cars could revitalize the suburban dream.

Source: Reuters News, Andy Sullivan (04/10/2009)

Even as Rents Drop, More Apartments Sit Empty

Apartment vacancy rates reached an average of 7.2 percent in the first quarter of 2009, a 1 percent increase over the previous two quarters and the highest level since 2004, according to real estate research firm Reis Inc.

At the same time, asking rents fell 0.6 percent and effective rents—what landlords are actually able to collect—declined 1.1 percent.

Metro areas where Reis says rents have fallen the most are:

  • San Francisco, -2.8 percent
  • New York, -2.6 percent
  • San Jose, -2.5 percent
  • Long Island, N.Y., -2.3 percent
  • Fairfield County, Conn., -1.9 percent


Metro areas where rents have increased the most:

  • Portland, Ore., 0.8 percent
  • Miami, 0.7 percent
  • Houston, 0.4 percent
  • St. Louis, 0.4 percent
  • Tampa-St.-Petersburg, Fla., 0.4 percent


Source: The Wall Street Journal, Nick Timiraos (04/2009)

Target Stores Feel Housing Pain

Among the losers in the housing downturn are Target discount department stores.

Target sells twice as much home-related goods as Wal-Mart and its sales, as well as its stock price, have been feeling the pinch.

Since the housing bubble burst in 2007, sales of home-goods at Target declined more than 20 percent.

“The fact that [home goods] were such a strong core and magnet department certainly had a powerful impact on customers and investors alike,” says Chris Ohlinger of Service Industry Research Systems, Inc.

He believes that housing has now hit bottom and Target will begin to recover–a process, he says, that will take two years.

Source: BusinessWeek.com, Damian Joseph 

Home Prices Fall to 2005 Levels

U.S. home prices fell 5.5 percent in July compared with the same month a year ago and are about equal to where they were in Oct. 2005, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Prices were down 0.6 percent from June on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the agency.

James Lockhart, director of the agency, urged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loosen lending standards to encourage more sales.

“I expect any changes to reflect both safe and sound business strategy and attentiveness to the (companies’) mission,” Lockhart said Tuesday in testimony prepared for a Senate Banking Committee hearing. He also said that modifying loans for troubled borrowers should be a “high priority.”

But some observers think availability of mortgages is only part of the problem. “The crash of other financial assets has made folks rather uncomfortable,” said Keith Gumbinger, a senior vice president with HSH Associates financial publisher. “It’s not about keeping Fannie and Freddie afloat any more.”

Source: The Associated Press, Alan Zibel (09/23