Homeowner Denial Eases

A 60% majority of US homeowners said in Q109 they believed their homes lost value during the past 12 months, while 80% of homes actually lost value during that time, according to a quarterly survey released today by Zillow.com. The discrepancy between survey respondent sentiment and the actual yearly value loss narrowed in Q109 from previous surveys. Of homeowners surveyed in Q408, 57% believed their home lost value while 76% of homes actually declined in value. Of respondents in Q308, 49% believed their home had lost value, while 74% of homes had actually lost value. The difference between homeowner belief and reality, calculated as the misperception index, narrowed to five from 10 in the fourth quarter. An index of zero indicates homeowner perception in line with actual home value. The quarter’s index marked the lowest level of misperception reported by the online marketplace, suggesting homeowners are more accepting than ever of the deteriorating home values nationwide. “While homeowners are now more realistic when looking backward, they are still pretty starry-eyed when looking forward with three out of four homeowners believing that their own homes’ prices will increase or be flat over the next six months. Unfortunately, there are few markets we expect to perform this well,” says Stan Humphries, head of data and analytics at Zillow, in a media statement today. The problem historically with homeowner misperception, the belief home prices have nowhere to go but up, led to situations where borrowers wishing to refinance out of an adjustable-rate mortgage before the teaser rate shot up found themselves slipping underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes were worth on the current market, and unable to qualify for a refinance. These same situations prevented borrowers from selling their homes at a high enough price to repay their mortgages and still receive equity back. The end result was a volume of homeowners unable to either sell or comfortably make payments and unwilling to simply foreclose. These homes, not technically on the market, make up a part of the housing inventory that is, by nature, difficult to track. The task is not lost on Zillow. “Also interesting is the information we have for the first time this quarter on the levels of ‘shadow inventory’ — homes that people would like to sell but that aren’t currently on the market, and thus aren’t captured in the official number of homes on the market,” Zillow’s Humphries adds. “With almost a third of homeowners poised to jump into the market at the first sign of stabilization, this could create a steady stream of new inventory adding to already record-high inventory levels, thus keeping downward pressure on home prices.” Write to Diana Golobay.

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