Last Updated Feb 2, 2010 5:14 PM EST
Let's review the recent news:
- The National Association of Realtors reported that pending home sales index rose 1 percent in December, and remains 10.8 percent above the level set in December, 2008. In November, the pending home sales index fell 16.4 percent, as home buyers thought the home buyer tax credit was ending. The stock market rose 111 points today, partially in response to the strong housing numbers.
- Before the opening bell this morning, new home builder D.R. Horton announced it had earned $192 million, or 62 cents a share, well beyond earnings estimates, which had called for a loss of $62 million. The company said that new home orders and completed new home sales had increased significantly in its first quarter. How much does this relate to the extension and expansion of the home buyer tax credit? Probably quite a bit.
- A story in today's Washington Post noted that 9.1 percent of FHA borrowers had missed at least 3 mortgage payments as of December, up from 6.5 percent a year ago. The borrowers who are in severe default are those who got their mortgages over the past two to three years, and had extremely low credit scores. FHA has been increasing its market share since the housing bubble burst, often lending to home buyer with extremely low credit scores. In fact, FHA recently announced changes that would allow borrowers with a credit score of 580 to get an FHA loan with 10 percent down. There is concern in Washington about the fiscal strength of FHA, which has tapped almost all of its reserves. Once gone, the agency would need taxpayer help - setting up another huge fight in Congress.
- The Commerce Department reported today that U.S. housing vacancies remained near an all-time high. For rental housing, the rate fell to 10.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, from 11.1 percent, an all-time high. For homes typically occupied by the owner, the vacancy rate grew to 2.7 percent from 2.6 percent. And, the U.S. homeownership rate fell from 67.6 percent to 67.2 percent - the lowest since 2000.
- The number of new, single-family homes sold has dropped 75 percent since 2005, from 1.2 million units to 342,000 units last year, according to the Treasury Department's U.S. Economic Statistics monthly data. Annual housing starts dropped from just over 2 million units in 2005 to 557,000 units in 2009.
- Home prices continued to decline at the end of last year, according to the latest report from First American CoreLogic, Inc. National home prices declined 5.7 percent in November 2009 from a year earlier. The company is project further home price declines with a modest recovery in the Spring. Including distressed sales, the states with the biggest home price declines were Nevada (-22.5 percent), Arizona (-14.9 percent), Florida (-13.7 percent), Michigan (-12.6 percent) and Idaho (-11.0 percent). Since 2006, home prices have declined 30 percent nationally, although much more in some states. Mark Fleming, chief economist for First American CoreLogic, said he remains concerned about the shadow inventory of foreclosed homes, negative equity, and "the ability of loan modification programs to mitigate this risk."
- The unemployment rate has worsened in many states. Without a job, it's going to be tough to make mortgage payments and get debt paid down.
That day is coming sooner than you might imagine: April 30, the date your home purchase contract must be finalized, is just 87 days away - and counting.
- Underwater With Your Mortgage? Drowning In Debt? More Homeowners Are Ignoring Money Problems
- Are You In Loan Modification Hell? Join The Club
- Home Sales, Prices Falling
- State Unemployment Numbers Worsen. No Job, No Money, No End To The Housing Crisis
- 2010 Will Start With Strong Home Sales. But What Happens After The Home Buyer Tax Credits End?