The latest edition of the Obama Administration’s housing scorecard shows that there are positive overall trends in the housing market, but notes that the recovery from the “Great Recession” isn’t yet complete.
The housing scorecard, prepared by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, cites stable home prices and shrinking foreclosure rates as positive indicators for the health of the market.
But the scorecard also cautions that the tough winter and limited access to credit are contributing to a weaker market.
“April’s Housing Scorecard shows that the housing market is stabilizing, as home prices have risen nearly 7% from last year, and foreclosure completions are at their lowest level since mid-2007,” said HUD Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research Katherine O’Regan.
“However, the harsh winter, fewer distressed properties on the market, and continued tight credit standards have combined to slow the pace of home sales this month, indicating we need to remain vigilant to keep the recovery robust.”
The scorecard notes these four factors are indicators of the health of the housing market:
House prices remain stable
As of February 2014, the Federal Housing Finance Agency purchase-only house price index rose 6.9% from last year and ticked up 0.6% (seasonally adjusted) from January. The FHFA seasonally adjusted purchase-only index for the U.S. shows that home values are on par with prices in mid-2005.
The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Home Price Index for February posted returns of 12.9% over the past 12 months and was virtually the same (not seasonally adjusted) from January. Prices, however, are typically weaker at this time of the year. The Case-Shiller index shows that home values are back to their mid-2004 levels.
Foreclosure completions are at their lowest level since mid-2007
A total of 28,840 U.S. properties were repossessed by lenders in March, down 5% from February and down 34% from a year ago—to the lowest level since July 2007. Newly initiated foreclosures, at 55,710 U.S. properties, were up 7% from February but still down 24% from one year ago.
New Home Sales Have Slowed in Recent Months
Purchases of new homes dropped 14.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000 in March—an eight-month low. New home sales were down 13.3% from a year earlier, the first annual decline since the third quarter of 2011.
The Administration's foreclosure mitigation programs continue to provide relief for millions of homeowners as the recovery from the housing crisis continues
More than 2 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, while the Federal Housing Administration has offered nearly 2.3 million loss mitigation and early delinquency interventions through March.
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 million proprietary modifications through February. In all, more than 8.3 million mortgage modification and other forms of mortgage assistance arrangements were completed between April 2009 and the end of March 2014.
“While the housing market continues to make progress, there are still many homeowners struggling to make their mortgage payments,” said Treasury Acting Assistant Secretary Tim Bowler.
“Treasury remains committed to helping homeowners through our programs under Making Home Affordable. As this report shows, nearly 1.3 million homeowners have received a permanent modification through the Home Affordable Modification Program and the program has saved homeowners an estimated $26.8 billion to date in monthly mortgage payments.”
The scorecard notes that despite the seemingly encouraging news, “there is a need to continue with recovery efforts as home sales have slowed, too many homeowners remain underwater, and mortgage delinquencies rates remain elevated.”
The scorecard also notes that there is considerable geographic variation in market conditions not captured in the national statistics, which suggests that some markets are improving at different rates than others.
“Given the current state of the market and recognizing that recovery will take place over time, the Administration remains committed to its efforts to prevent avoidable foreclosures and stabilize the housing market,” the scorecard states.