The crisis-ridden housing market has “turned a corner,” Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan said today. Declining foreclosures, increasing home sales and a year-over-year boost in the Federal Housing Finance Agency index of home prices undergird his statement.
Donovan, speaking at a economic conference sponsored by Bloomberg in Washington, said that whether looking at home sales, the number of houses under contract or the increased availability of credit and mortgage money, “We really have begun to see a different view in the market today from even where we were six months ago.”
“We have made real progress over the past three years. The number of families falling into foreclosure is down by more than half from where it was,” he added. “So there is real progress and I think we have turned a corner.”
New foreclosure data issued today by CoreLogic, a housing analytics service, showed the percentage of homeowners more than 90 days late on their mortgage payments has held steady since February, as did the number of homes listed in the national foreclosure inventory.
About 1.4 million homes, or 3.4 percent of all homes with a mortgage, were in some stage of the foreclosure process in February and March, compared to 1.5 million or 3.5 percent in March 2011, according to the report. The number of loans in the foreclosure inventory decreased by nearly 100,000 or 6 percent in March 2012, compared to March 2011.
“The overall delinquency level was unchanged in March, remaining at its lowest point since July 2009,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Non-judicial foreclosure markets like Nevada, Arizona and California are experiencing significant improvements in their shares of delinquent borrowers. Some judicial foreclosure states are also improving, like Florida, but not to the extent of non-judicial markets.”
However, there are still signs that for many Americans, the dream of owning a home remains elusive. New census figures released this week found that the U.S. rate of home ownership in the first three months of this year fell to the lowest level since the first quarter of 1997. Also, the latest S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices in major metropolitan areas released last week reported that home prices hit new monthly lows in February in Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle, and Tampa.
The housing market began its downward tumble in 2006 after loose lending requirements created a housing bubble that triggered the worst financial meltdown and ensuing recession in modern history.