No "Psychological" Bottom Yet in Housing Prices

The rate of decline in housing prices has slowed recently according
to the RPX Composite Index released today by RadarLogic, but the bottom for
prices may still be a ways off.  The RPX
Composite price, which tracks 25 major metropolitan areas, declined to $169.75
per square foot in January, the lowest price for the Composite since July 2002. 

The year-over-year rate of decline has been increasing since
mid-2010 and reached the most rapid growth in several years in December
2011.  The rate of decline then began to
slow.  On December 19 the rate was 7
percent and on January 19 it was 5.42 percent.

The decline from December to January was 2.2 percent, the
lowest since 2007.  RadarLogic discounted
the seasonality of the decrease by pointing out the declines in January for the
years 2008 to 2010 averaged 3.6 percent.

RadarLogic said that while the slowing rate of decline is
promising it is still too early to say that prices are nearing the bottom.  The company referenced a similar slowing in
the rate of decline in 2009 only to see acceleration again in 2010.

The RPX transaction count for the 25 metropolitan areas increased
7.7 percent year-over-year to the highest January level since 2007.  The increase was driven by a 23.4 percent
increase in non-distressed or “other” sales. 
At the same time the composite price for these sales dropped 7.7 percent
which the company suggestions may indicate that sellers are dropping their
prices to move the properties.

Motivated sales, defined as sales at foreclosure auction and
liquidation sales by lenders declined by 21.8 percent year over year and those
prices also declined.

On a monthly basis counts of “other” sales declined 25.9
percent while motivated sales were down 15 percent over the same period
resulting in motivated sales comprising a larger percentage of total sales; the
percentage increased from 22.6 percent in the month ending on December 19 to
25.1 percent for the following month.  “This
relative increase in motivated sales put downward pressure on the overall
25-MSA RPX Composite price, exacerbating its month-over-month decline.”

RPX says that the existing home sales figures released this
week and continued signs of weakness in mortgage application numbers suggest
that the country has yet to find the “psychological” bottom in the housing
market
.   “Until buyers, of whom we
suspect there are many, believe the imbalance of supply and demand is
correcting, they will continue to push prices down by bidding below asking
prices.  It would seem that home builders
agree with this sentiment as starts and permits for single family homes are
weak.  Most new builder activity appears
to be in apartment structures.”

…(read more)

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