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Why Are House Prices Falling?

In the past few days, three separate pricing reports showed that national house prices have begun to soften. Altos Research shows that prices fell 3.1% over the last three months. Clear Capital’s Home Data Index Market Report shows that prices have fallen 5% in the last quarter. The Zillow Real Estate Market Report shows a 1.2% quarterly decline and a 4.3% yearly decline. Anyone selling a house should understand what is currently happening in the market and what impact certain factors will have on prices over the next six months. Let’s look at those factors.

The Expiration of the Homebuyers’ Tax Credit

The tax credit was introduced by the administration to stabilize house prices. The TARP Report spells this out quite clearly. The thinking was, if they rewarded purchasers to buy, they could lower the months’ supply of housing inventory. By increasing demand and decreasing supply, prices would level off.  And they did originally.

However, when they extended and expanded the tax credit earlier this year, the opposite occurred. When buyers came out, more property owners (individual homeowners who had previously held off putting their home on the market and banks with an ever increasing supply of foreclosures) decided that was the time to put their houses up for sale. Instead of lowering supply, it actually increased the supply of homes on the market. Inventory rose and demand faded with the expiration of the tax credit. Larger supplies and less demand will cause prices to fall.

Distressed Properties

Foreclosures and short sales have dramatically affected prices in almost every section of the country. Zillow has reported that 20.1% of all homes sold in September were foreclosures and an additional 27.3% were short sales. A foreclosure, on average, sells for 65% of full value and short sales sell for 85% of full value. Obviously, as more distressed properties sell the more the average sales price falls.

Distressed properties also have a major impact on appraisals. Even if a non-distressed property sells, the appraiser may use distressed properties to determine value in that neighborhood. We can see that distressed properties therefore impact prices even on the non-distressed properties sold.

We will be dealing with this issue for some time while banks clear the inventory of foreclosures they currently own. It was just reported that there is over 40 months of supply we must work through. Increased supply causes prices to soften.

Lack of Consumer Confidence

Many economists believe that the housing recovery depends on resurgence in job growth. It will be difficult for the buying public to have the confidence to make big ticket purchases (including housing) until they are confident that they can stay employed. Demand will continue to be weak until the economy recovers. Weak demand causes prices to fall.

Bottom Line

Pricing of any item is determined by the ratio of supply and demand. Demand for housing will remain soft until the economy recovers. The months’ supply of housing inventory continues to remain too high and is increasingly being made up of distressed properties which are sold at a discounted price. That means that nationally home prices will continue to fall.

Please sit with a local real estate expert to determine how the above issues will impact prices in your area. Make sure they tell you the truth not just what you might want to hear. Only by knowing the truth can you pick the best option for you and your family.

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