No surprise here: If you connect the dots, the home value stabilization is happening mainly in states where the fewer people are unemployed or losing their jobs.
If people keep their jobs, even at a lower base pay, they're able to continue making their mortgage payments. So, fewer homes go into foreclosure, which means there is less foreclosure inventory for sale. That puts less pressure on sellers to lower their prices to compete, which means that prices stabilize. On the flip side, if more people are employed, they might think about buying a home, which means a little bit better balance between buyers and sellers.
But in states where thousands of homes are foreclosed on every month, real estate values are not stabilizing throughout a whole metro area, but in pockets where employment is more stable. Even then, homeowners are worried that their property values are still falling.
In Atlanta last week, I talked with a woman who believes her house is still falling in value. It's already fallen by 50 percent, and she has about 25 foreclosures in a 3-block radius from her front door. She isn't moving. She isn't refinancing. She's just looking out over her wasteland of a neighborhood wondering if she's ever going to be in positive net worth territory again.
Here's the question I'd like you to ponder: Does your home value matter if you're not selling or refinancing?
In other words, if you're going to stay in your home for the next 15 years, long enough to get out of the current mess we're in, should you even be thinking about your vanishing (or long evaporated) home equity?
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Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.com.