Real Estate & Mortgage Insights

The Housing Market - Where We Stand Now

After a few years of depressing information out of the U.S. housing market, this monthís data continues to be mixed. Is recovery truly in the works? Hereís what the numbers say:

Foreclosures

According to numbers from real estate data firm RealtyTrac, foreclosures in January were down, the second consecutive monthly drop. The national foreclosure rate fell to one in every 409 U.S. households, representing a ten percent decline from December.

RealtyTracís executive was not convinced this is a true sign of recovery though.

"January foreclosure numbers are exhibiting a pattern very similar to a year ago: a double-digit percentage jump in December foreclosure activity followed by a ten percent drop in January," James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

"If history repeats itself we will see a surge in the numbers over the next few months as lenders foreclose on delinquent loans where neither the existing loan modification programs or the new short sale and deed-in-lieu of foreclosure alternatives works," he said.

The states still getting hit hardest by foreclosures are Nevada, Arizona, California, Florida, Utah, Idaho, Michigan, Illinois, Oregon, and Georgia.

Home Sales

Existing home sales were down again in January, falling 7.2 percent from December, based on data from the National Association of Realtors. According to the Census Bureau, new home sales hit an all-time record low in January, plummeting 11.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 309,000 units. That is the lowest rate of sales on record. Foreclosed homes and short sales continue to attract more buyers than the higher prices of new homes.

Fannie Mae

The government-sponsored entity, which has been under government control since September 2008, recently announced it will need another $15.3 billion in bail out money from taxpayers. Fannie Mae, one of the largest mortgage finance companies in the country, had $216.5 billion worth of non-performing, toxic loans on its books as of December and just reported total 2009 losses of $74.4 billion dollars. Fannie and Freddie Mac, the other mortgage GSE , have been instruments in getting bad loans out of the investment markets, but apparently couldnít take on the nationís problems without eventually dealing with them as well.

Interest Rates

Mortgage rates stayed low for the entire month of February, but there is plenty of talk as to what will happen after the Federal Reserve stops buying up mortgage-backed securities at the end of March. Most say the laws of supply and demand suggest rates will rise, perhaps by a half to a full percent. Yet, based on recent statements by officials, there is reason to believe the Fed and the Obama Administration are perfectly willing and ready to step back in to aid the housing market if rates do start to rise, which would in turn bring lower rates again.

While no one is ready to say the housing market is back to normal, things are at least better than they have been during some periods over the past two years. The question is whether they will continue to improve or head south again.



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