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The Shadow Housing Market What You Should Know, and How It Affects Your Home Value

By the Mortgage Guy /

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It has recently become common knowledge in the housing and banking industry that there is an official inventory of 3.5 million available homes across America, and most concentrated within twenty-five metro market. Housing market researcher CoreLogic reports that the current shadow inventory, or pending supply, is 1.8 million homes, down slightly from 2010’s figure of 2 million. The National Association of Realtors says the current inventory of existing homes that are listed for sale would take close to nine months to reduce at the present sales pace. CoreLogic’s report also shows that there are nearly 2 million negative equity loans that account for more than fifty percent of what are being termed “upside down” loans and they estimate these properties will soon be added to the nations shadow inventory in the next few months.

Mark Fleming, CoreLogic’s chief economist feels that, “The short-term weakness in prices and longer-term weakness in the drivers that affect the housing market imply that excess supply will remain high for an extended period of time.” While Sam Khater, a senior economist working with Fleming adds that some improvements in the national economy can be attributed to the small decrease in shadow inventory as more people are finding it easier to keep up with their mortgage payments, and that there has been a strengthening in some home prices last year and a willingness on the part of the banks for more loan modifications.

Many expect this decrease to continue and only another decline in the economy would prevent that. CoreLogic’s report reflects the shadow inventory of homes that are more than ninety days delinquent on the mortgage, are in the foreclosure process, or are already bank owned and will eventually be predominantly foreclosed homes.

Because foreclosures have always sold for twenty to thirty percent less than other homes this vast inventory is a major threat to stabilizing current home prices, and the homes that are in “distress” and on the verge of foreclosure are in much greater numbers. Overall it is estimated that the shadow inventory combined with the distressed homes will take at least two years to be sold.

One problem facing the housing industry, which attributes to so many homes being added to the shadow inventory sheet, is that homeowners who are in arrears and delinquent three months or more will never be able to catch up and recover. Unlike in years past when large percentages of delinquent loans were brought current, and the mortgages did not go into default, homeowners have to walk away in defeat and the homes are now falling into the short sale category.

In order for things to improve to the point where positive gains are being seen in the housing markets across America, and particularly in the hardest hit metro areas, the nation will have to see some evidence of strong economic recovery and growth along with a considerable amount of new jobs as well. More robust economic growth, a pickup in job creation and a renewed desire by banks to risk selling mortgages all need to happen if America is going to see a boost in the housing market nationwide.

The grim fact remains that many Americans owe more on their homes than the mortgage which is a problem that continues to feed the current crisis.

In summary the three categories of homes that need to see a drastic drop in inventory before a sound recovery takes hold and the economy benefits are:

  • The National Association of Realtors official inventory of 3.5 million homes which could take close to nine months to clear rather than the six months in a normal economy.

  • CoreLogic’s unofficial shadow inventory of 1.8 million homes which CoreLogic surmises represent an additional nine months of potential supply.

  • Homes within the underwater inventory that CoreLogic refers to which account for an additional 2 million available homes on the market.

The Hardest Hits Areas

In order of severity: New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Florida, Delaware, Georgia, Connecticut, California, Washington, and Michigan are showing the most distress this year, while North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana seem to be holding steady or rebounding well. However, for homeowners to assess how the market can affect them they must look much closer to home at their local situation and the extent to which there is a shadow inventory there. Before anyone, anywhere embarks on a sale or wishes to purchase a home they should check all the local figures and consult with local realtors who have been watching the markets over a period of time and have a broad and knowledgeable view. If there is a large local inventory of shadow homes this may not necessarily mean that prices will continue to decline, but it will most assuredly mean they that home values will not start to climb back to, or approach, the previous levels of the past.

A large shadow inventory also helps to foster a buyer’s market. The current glut of homes is in the buyers favor and for sellers they must now compete with a greater number of properties. Tie this all to historically low interest rates and this could be a good time for investors with good credit and the funds to acquire more real estate assets, but still not enough to give the market the needed boost it so desperately is waiting for.

Many folks over the last year have predicted that foreclosing banks will eventually inundate the market with homes for sale making matters worse, but the lack of new home starts may have gone a long way in helping the market absorb the supply from the banks. Further, in many areas that have seen a steep climb in foreclosures investors with the means have found they can acquire properties, fix them up, and turn a profit as landlords through rental because most folks who lose their homes still try to remain where they are and are then forced to rent. Although this may help to offset a bit the inventory of homes it does little to help the failing new-home construction industry that provides jobs and wages which in turn could help to spur the market back to health.

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