The housing economy posted strong results, with the purchase of new homes rising and foreclosure completions continuing to drop, but officials still caution that the economy is still healing from the Great Recession, the Obama Administration said in the February scorecard.
“February’s Housing Scorecard continues to show that the Obama Administration’s efforts to stabilize the housing market and provide relief to struggling homeowners are having a positive effect,” said HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Affairs Kurt Usowski.
“For example, at the national level, the Federal Reserve Board announced yesterday that homeowners’ equity jumped over $400 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013, reaching over $10 trillion for the first time since 2007. At the local level, HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which helps communities address foreclosed and abandoned homes, has now completed or rehabilitated 32,000 units and provided direct assistance to 10,800 homeowners,” Usowski said.
But before the industry can celebrate, Usowski cautioned that the encouraging news does not detract from the need to build on this progress as too many homeowners remain underwater and mortgage delinquency rates remain elevated.
Home prices remained fairly still according to the S&P Case-Shiller home price index, which decreased to 165.7 in December from 165.8 a month prior. Year-over-year the index is up from 146.1 in December 2012.
Existing homes sales fell to 385,000 from 405,800 in January, down from 405,800 a year prior, the most recent data from the National Association of Realtors said.
The U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that new home sales ticked up to 39,000 in January from 35,600 in November, barely up from 38,200 from January 2012.
Meanwhile, the supply of existing homes for sale nudged up to a 4.9-month supply in January from a 4.6-month supply last period, marginally up from a 4.4-month supply a year ago, NAR found.
Foreclosure witnessed a strong jump and reached 57,300 in January from 52,100 in December, but still down from 64,800 a year ago, RealtyTrac’s recent report showed.
Furthermore, mortgage delinquency rates for prime borrowers posted little change from last month and decreased to 3.1% in January from 3.2% last month and 3.9% a year ago, Black Knight Financial Services said.
Meanwhile, “The standards set by the Making Home Affordable program and our quarterly servicer assessments have positively impacted the mortgage servicing industry,” said Treasury Acting Assistant Secretary Tim Bowler.
“While the housing market as a whole has made significant progress, servicers still have room for improvement and Treasury will continue to press the industry to improve servicer performance. January’s MHA report shows that homeowners currently in the Home Affordable Mortgage Program have saved a total estimated $25.5 billion to date in monthly mortgage payments.”
This follows a report in November that the Federal Housing Finance Administration reached a milestone and helped more than 3 million.