December Home Prices Hit Record Low for 2010

Don’t expect prices to rebound until the supply of foreclosed properties is exhausted.

March 1, 2011

Despite recent upbeat data on new and existing home sales, U.S. home prices continued to decline in December due in part to increased sales of foreclosed properties, according to the FNC Residential Price Index™ (RPI).

Driven in part by rising sales of distressed properties and higher foreclosure-sales discounts, home prices declined for the seventh straight month in December and suffered their largest one-month drop during the year.

As markets approach new lows, the 2010 year-end home prices are now down more than 3.4% from January.

Of 30 major metropolitan markets tracked, 23 experienced price declines in December that averaged about 2.2%. Home prices in Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Phoenix continue to drop year-over-year at rates in the double digits.

Meanwhile, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco markets have been among the best performing markets during the year, rising 5.1%, 7.8%, and 8.1%, respectively, from a year ago.

The three California markets continue to enjoy strong year-over-year growth despite the absence of a tax credit in the second half of the year—in stark contrast to many faltering recoveries among markets where the median price decline stood at about -2.9%.

The deteriorating trends in home prices arise, in part, from increased sales of foreclosed properties. As a percentage of total home sales (both new and existing homes), sales of distressed properties have increased steadily in recent months, rising from 23.5% in the second quarter of 2010 to 25.5% and 26.8% in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

This increase occurred despite a temporary halt in foreclosures by several major lenders concerned with potential legal implications of claims regarding insufficient due diligence. In the meantime, the foreclosure sales discount increased from about 36.5% in the second quarter to 39.2% and 40.8% in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

More foreclosure sales are expected since various lenders announced in December that they would resume the process. Accordingly, the FNC RPI anticipates further downward pressure on home prices in the coming months.

There is an upside: This trend will reduce the surplus of distressed properties and eventually bring the supply to levels in line with weak housing demand, paving the way for a more sustainable housing recovery later.

The Residential Price Index, created by the mortgage technology company FNC.