Friday, March 09, 2012

Ups and downs in housing market numbers continue

For a few days, all you heard was how the housing market seemed to be turning the corner.
Of course, we’ve heard it all before. But this time the numbers all looked good.
Existing-home sales were up nationwide and in North Texas in January.
Even more important, pending home sales — purchase contracts that have not yet closed — jumped in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and around the country.
So the on-again, off-again home market rebound seemed to be on again at last.
At least that was the case until the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index came out with a thud on Tuesday.
That’s been the trouble with most economic indicators lately; they often seem to contradict one another.
Case-Shiller said that home prices in the D-FW area and around the country were still falling at the end of 2011.
Nationally, prices in the Case-Shiller Index are back where they were in 2003.
In the D-FW area, the prices are roughly at 2004 levels. They’ve been down for 18 straight months.
And more than 12 percent of Dallas-area homeowners with a mortgage owe more than their house is worth.
Most of this has to do with foreclosures.
About a third of the homes being sold in the U.S. are previously foreclosed or otherwise distressed — usually properties that change hands in a short sale.
The average discount for these houses is about 20 percent.
Pull the depressed stuff out of the mix, and home prices are starting to inch up.
The differences in prices by neighborhood are also dramatic.
Median home-sales prices in the Park Cities jumped 25 percent in January from a year ago, according to...