Housing data site RealtyTrac found that sales of properties in-foreclosure are down from a year ago to multi-year lows while year-to-date U.S. home sales in 2015 are at an eight-year high. The sale of properties sold while in the foreclosure process (not including bank-owned properties) accounted for 6.4% of all single family and condo sales in July, down from 6.6% of all sales in June and down from 8.0% in July 2014 to the lowest monthly share since January 2000 — the earliest that data is available.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors found that distressed properties -- including both foreclosures and short sales -- declined to 7% of all homes in July from 8% in June and 9% a year ago. Some 5% of July sales were foreclosures, and 2% were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 17% below market value in July (15% in June), while short sales were discounted 12% (18% in June). Comparatively speaking, that isn't such a bad thing.
"Five years ago, distressed sales represented 33% of the market in July," says Chris Polychron, president of the National Association of Realtors and executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., "For many previously distressed homeowners throughout the country, rising home values in recent years have helped recover equity and the vast improvement in several local job markets means fewer are falling behind on their mortgage payments.”
That doesn't necessarily mean everything is going extraordinarily well. The U.S. median existing home sales price in July was $235,500, up 5.8% from a year earlier. While there are fewer all-cash sales driving that rising price, there are still reasons to proceed with caution.
“While the stock market may be on a roller coaster as of late, the housing market is still on solid ground, with the eight-year low in cash sales combined with the eight-year high in overall sales volume in the first half of the year evidence that housing is successfully transitioning from an investor-driven recovery to one that is drawing in traditional buyers as a good foundation for sustainable growth going forward,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “That’s not to say there are no cracks in the foundation of this recovery, the top three of which are housing affordability — or lack thereof in some high-flying markets — along with overdependence on capricious cash buyers — both foreign and domestic — in some markets, and the persistent overhang of underwater homeowners who continue to represent heightened default risk given any future economic shockwaves.”
In 61 of the 172 markets RealtyTrac analyzed for in-foreclosure sales (35%), the share of those sales increased from a year ago, counter to the national trend. Those markets included Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile there were 124,910 properties with foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — in July, up 7% from the previous month and up 14% from a year ago. However, the 45,381 U.S. properties that started the foreclosure process for the first time in July, were down 8% from the previous month and down 9% from a year ago to the lowest level since November 2005 — a nearly ten-year low. Foreclosure starts in July were less than one-fourth of their peak of 203,948 in April 2009, and below their pre-crisis average of 52,279 a month in 2005 and 2006.
“The increase in overall foreclosure activity over the last five months has been driven primarily by rapidly rising bank repossessions, which in July reached the highest level since January 2013,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “Meanwhile foreclosure starts in July were at the lowest level since November 2005 — a nearly ten-year low that demonstrates the recent rise in bank repossessions represents banks flushing out old distress rather than new distress being pushed into the pipeline.”
That's good news for much of the U.S. but not for certain corners of it. With help from RealtyTrac, we found the locations where foreclosures still make up a significant portion of home sales, despite improvements in the overall economy. Each has its own story to tell: