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Existing Home Sales Rise, Foreclosures Trickle Down

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently released the July edition of the Obama Administration’s Housing Scorecard—a comprehensive report on the nation’s housing market. The latest data show progress among key indicators, including rebound in the sale of existing homes and the continuing downward trend of foreclosure starts and completions.

This month’s Housing Scorecard also features a spotlight on the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metropolitan Statistical Area (Philadelphia MSA). While this scorecard notes positive overall trends in the housing market, officials caution that more work needs to be done as the economy recovers from the Great Recession. The full Housing Scorecard is available online.

“The market indicators for the housing market recovery were mixed in July as foreclosure filings continue to improve, but home sales, particularly for new homes, showed unexpected weakness,” says HUD Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research Katherine O’Regan. “Home prices, while still increasing, are doing so at slower rates.  Indications are that continued improvements in the economy, such as the July employment report which marked the sixth straight month that more than 200,000 jobs have been added, along with slowly easing mortgage credit, will keep the U.S. housing market on the path to recovery.”

The July Housing Scorecard features key data on the health of the housing market and the impact of the Administration’s foreclosure prevention programs, including:

Sales of previously owned (existing) homes rose for the third consecutive month in June after a lackluster performance in the previous two quarters.The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reported that existing homes—including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and cooperatives—sold at a pace of 5.04 million (SAAR) in June, up 2.6 percent from May but remain 2.3 percent below the 5.16 million pace a year earlier. Sales are at their highest pace since October 2013 (5.13 million).

Foreclosure starts and completions continue their downward trend. Lenders started the public foreclosure process on 47,243 U.S. properties in June, down 4 percent from the previous month and down 18 percent from one year ago to the lowest level since November 2005—more than an 8½ year low.  Lenders completed the foreclosure process (bank repossessions or REOs) on 26,889 U.S. properties in June, down 5 percent from the previous month and down 24 percent from one year ago to the lowest level since June 2007—a 7 year low. (Note however that foreclosure starts and completions were up from a year ago in about 15 states).

House prices appreciate in May while year-over-year gains continue to slow. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) seasonally adjusted purchase-only house price index showed home values appreciated by 0.4 percent over the prior month and 5.5-percent over the previous year, marking the fifth straight month of more modest annual growth in home prices. The FHFA index shows that U.S. home values are on par with prices in mid-2005.The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index (not seasonally adjusted) posted month-over-month returns for May of 1.1 percent and gains of 9.3 percent over the past 12 months. The Case-Shiller index shows annual rates of gain in home prices slowing over the last six months; home values are at September-2004 levels. (The Case-Shiller and FHFA price indices are released with a two-month lag.)

Sales of new homes fell in June and sales in May were revised sharply downward. New home sales declined 8.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 406,000 in June, following sales of 442,000 in May that were 12.3 percent lower than estimated last month. Sales were at their lowest level since March and down 11.5 percent from one year ago. The weakness in sales reflects strict bank lending standards, less favorable housing affordability, and low inventory. (Source:  HUD and Census Bureau).

The Administration’s foreclosure mitigation programs continue to provide relief
for millions of homeowners as the recovery from the housing crisis continues. In all, more than 8.5 million mortgage modification and other forms of mortgage assistance arrangements were completed between April 2009 and the end of June 2014.  Nearly 2.1 million homeowner assistance actions have taken place through the Making Home Affordable Program, including nearly 1.4 million permanent modifications through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), while the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has offered more than 2.3 million loss mitigation and early delinquency interventions through June. The Administration’s programs continue to encourage improved standards and processes in the industry, with HOPE Now lenders offering families and individuals more than 4.1 million proprietary modifications through May (HOPE Now data are reported with a 2-month lag).

This month’s Housing Scorecard also features a regional spotlight on market strength in the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metropolitan Statistical Area (Philadelphia MSA).Like many areas across the country, the economic and housing market conditions in the Philadelphia area are improving, but the housing crisis and peak of foreclosures hit this area later than the rest of the country and the subsequent recovery has been progressing more slowly. The Administration’s broad approach to stabilize the housing market has been provided help to homeowners throughout the Philadelphia MSA.

The housing market in Philadelphia MSA is showing important signs of improvement.As with similar areas along the East Coast, the initial downturn from the foreclosure crisis in the Philadelphia MSA was less severe than in some areas of the nation but the recovery from the crisis and subsequent recession has been slower. The share of mortgages at risk of foreclosure (those 90 or more days delinquent or in the foreclosure process) did not peak in Philadelphia until the beginning of 2013—three years later than for the nation—and at a much higher rate, although the share of distressed mortgages was higher going into the crisis.

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