Foreclosures Driving Price Declines, Sales Volume: Report

Foreclosure sales continued to drive price declines and fueled an increase in sale transactions in key local markets across the nation during August, according to data released Friday by Radar Logic Inc., a New York-based real estate data and analytics company. A monthly report released by the company showed a month-over-month increase in so-called “motivated sales” — or foreclosure sales — as a percentage of total sales in 19 of the 25 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) studied, as well as a year-over-year percentage increase in all areas compared to August 2007. Motivated sales accounted for 22.8 percent of all transactions in August, compared to 6.6 percent last year. Motivated transaction counts, on the other hand, increased in 22 MSAs in August from July and in all 25 MSAs from August 2007, while total transaction counts increased in only nine MSAs on a year-over-year basis, but in 12 MSAs on a month-to-month basis from just four MSAs in July 2008. The month-to-month gain represents usual seasonality patterns, where transaction accounts rise through summer months. The data also reported that 21 MSAs had lost at least 50 percent of their housing boom-led price appreciation, while eight MSAs had already lost more than 100 percent of the appreciation gained between January 2004 and the price peaks. Prices declined in 21 MSAs from July and in 20 MSAs from the same month last year. “While increases in motivated sales have put downward pressure on prices, it is important to bear in mind that prices have fallen substantially in transactions that are not related to foreclosures,” said Michael Feder, CEO of Radar Logic. “Twenty MSAs have seen prices for transactions we do not classify as ‘motivated’ give back over 50 percent of the appreciation they experienced during the height of the housing boom.” This indicates that home prices have made substantial progress toward equilibrium, though they may fall further before they reach it,” he said. A look at pricing per square foot The findings of Radar Logic’s Residential Property Index (or RPX) Monthly Housing Report are based on unique price-per-square-foot measurement that serves as the basis for daily trading and settlement on the company’s RPX index. California, Arizona and Nevada led the monthly trends with the largest concentrations of motivated sales and the steepest year-over-year price declines. Seven of the Eight MSAs with double-digit yearly transaction count increases occurred in these states, according to Radar Logic’s data. Three of the five most expensive MSAs — aside from the $1,139.02-per-square-foot Manhattan Condo area, a subset of the New York MSA — were located in California, priced from $361.38 to $274.35 per square foot. Two of the least expensive MSAs were located in Ohio and ranged from $87.70 to $97.98 per square foot, according to Radar Logic’s data. Only the Milwaukee MSA showed a year-over-year increase in PPSF — 1.5 percent — while only one MSA — Columbus, Ohio — remained generally flat, with a slight decrease of -0.5 percent in PPSF since Aug. 2007. The Manhattan Condo subset, considered by the data as a unique localized market within New York, also showed a year-over-year PPSF increase of 1.2 percent. Nine MSAs showed PPSF decreases of less than -10 percent, while eight MSAs reported PPSF decreases of more than -20 percent. Annual price-per-square-foot decreases in two MSAs — Las Vegas and Sacramento — passed -30 percent. Read the report. A new road ahead, with new drivers? The picture Radar Logic’s data has painted of foreclosures driving recent pricing and transaction trends — with seasonality riding shotgun, for now — depends largely on motivated sales. HW isn’t the first outlet to note that foreclosures are now making the market in many key locales. But if motivated sales should taper off in coming years due to the Hope for Homeowners program now rolling out, increased state intervention and a move by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the U.S. Treasury Department to start guaranteeing mortgages, the path of pricing and transactions count may turn in a different direction. “The current initiative to reduce new foreclosures being led by the FDIC could, if enacted, play an integral role in near-term prices,” Radar Logic’s Feder said. Note Feder’s use of “near-term” in his assessment. Of course, whether increasing government intervention can stanch foreclosures in the short term is one thing, and would probably automatically cause the RPX numbers to increase by simple weighting of non-distressed sales; whether such programs actually solve more fundamental problems in housing, however, or merely prolong the ultimate reckoning for years of lax lending practices, is something else entirely. Write to Diana Golobay at

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