Home Prices: Losing Momentum

It looks like our often-stated “double dip” might get legs based on the latest housing index reported out this morning by S&P/Dow Jones in their Case-Shiller report:

New York, February 25, 2014 – Data through December 2013, released today by S&P Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller1 Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed that National home prices closed the year of 2013 up 11.3%. This represents a slight improvement over last quarter’s annual rate of 11.2%. In the fourth quarter of 2013, the National Index declined 0.3%.

In December, the 10-City Composite remained relatively unchanged while the 20-City Composite showed its second consecutive monthly decline of 0.1%. Year-over-year, the 10-City and 20-City Composites posted gains of 13.6% and 13.4%, approximately 30 basis points lower than their November rates. Chicago showed its highest year-over-year return since December 1988. Dallas set a new peak and posted its largest annual gain since its inception in 2000. Denver declined 0.1% and is now 0.7% below its all-time index level high set in September 2013.

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The chart above depicts the annual returns of the U.S. National, the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite Home Price Indices. The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded an 11.3% gain in the year of 2013. The 10- and 20-City Composites posted increases of 13.6% and 13.4% for 2013.

After 26 months of consecutive gains, Phoenix posted -0.3% for the month of December, its largest decline since March 2011. Phoenix once led the recovery from the bottom in 2012, but Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco were the top three performing cities of 2013 with gains of over 20%. The Sun Belt, with the exception of Dallas, Miami and Tampa, saw lower annual rates in December when compared to their November numbers. The six cities with the highest year-over-year figures saw their rates decline (Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Diego and Detroit) and most cities ranked at the bottom improved (Denver, Washington and New York) – Charlotte and Cleveland were the two exceptions.

“Recent economic reports suggest a bleaker picture for housing. Existing home sales fell 5.1% in January from December to the slowest pace in over a year. Permits for new residential construction and housing starts were both down and below expectations. Some of the weakness reflects the cold weather in much of the country. However, higher home prices and mortgage rates are taking a toll on affordability. Mortgage default rates, as shown by the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Index, are back to their pre-crisis levels but bank lending standards remain strict.”

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As always, though, remember these are prices to prices and don’t include the 7-10% difference in net to buyers.  Those costs aren’t considered in the next…but things like points, repairs, commissions, closing costs, and so forth, are very real indeed, when you’re the one cutting the checks.

So on this basis, we may still be in 2003 prices on a net in to net out basis…

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