Home Prices: Glass Still Seems Half Empty


The Realtors tend to see the glass half full, that is, that 1/3 of the nation’s top 149 metro markets are still showing price increases year-over-year. But for those of us living in the other 2/3, we probably see the glass half empty.

Poring over this quarter’s metro home price report from the National Association of Realtors, I was searching for a glimmer of hope (yes, believe it or not, I don’t relish the nasty stats that you all think I just luuuv to report).

I’m happy for the folks in Binghamton, NY, Spartanburg, SC, and Peoria, IL, all seeing double-digit gains. And yes, the biggest price dips are in California, Florida and Michigan, the usual suspects. But some other spots show that it’s not all about the big speculator states or the troubled Midwest.

Memphis, TN is seeing home prices down 18 percent from a year ago, Jackson, MS down 13 percent, Minneapolis, MN down 10 percent; these were not exactly investor hotbeds during the housing boom. And the sales numbers really make you pause.

The Realtors do the quarterly sales figures by state, and only 3 states showed positive figures in the first quarter of this year from a year ago: Alaska, Indiana and New Jersey. On the other hand, seven states showed a more than 30 percent dip in sales from a year ago and more than twice that were in the 20 percent negative range.

A lot of folks seem to be ready to call a bottom to the housing market after this spring. I’m not exactly sure why. Some site a moderation in the foreclosure crisis. But I have to point out that the numbers are looking smaller now because we’re comparing them year over year, and we’re already over a year into the foreclosure boom, so the percentage numbers won’t look quite as drastic.

The real figures, which tend to come after the headlines, are still pretty nasty. Realtors claim the “pent-up” demand is there, but it’s clearly not showing up in the sales figures of existing or new homes. So I'll keep asking my question and hope for a good answer: What's it going to take?