Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What the housing market looked like last election

A majority of the talk in political arenas has, and will continue, to focus on the U.S. economy until a president is elected in November.

It has been the focus of TV ads, debates and even new reports trying to sort out if the economic picture is brighter now than when President Barack Obama rode the wave of change into office four years ago.

A new study released by RealtyTrac shows the housing picture in Manatee and Sarasota counties has mostly improved, with home prices the slowest measure to rebound. While the job market also has shown signs of life this year, it has not yet restored to the rates of 2008.

Foreclosure inventory in Manatee has slimmed from the 4,587 in 2008 to 4,362 today. In Sarasota, the tally has shrunk from 6,838 to 5,660, according to RealtyTrac.

A drop in new foreclosure starts and continued demand for middle-class housing has fueled the trend, shrinking supply of all housing types in the area.

Manatee had 4,508 new foreclosure starts in 2008 and only 1,593 today. In Sarasota, the 6,349 new foreclosures four years ago has evaporated to 2,738.

Although those indicators show signs of progress, prices have been slow to respond.

The average sales prices in Manatee in 2008 was $319,201 compared to $216,527 today. In Sarasota, the $274,335 average also continues to run higher than the latest reported figure of $199,310, according to RealtyTrac.

Unemployment, which often drives trends in the housing market, has improved slowly of late. But it has yet to catch the pace of 2008.

Since 2008, the jobless rate in Manatee has risen overall from 8.7 percent to 9.7 percent. The same was true for Sarasota, where the rates climbed from 8.4 percent to 9 percent even during that time.

The share of sales that were distressed (foreclosures and short sales) fell in Manatee from 15 percent in 2008 to 13.5 percent now. Sarasota's dropped from 20 percent to 15 percent.

The housing health check looked at the measures for all 919 US counties with the information available.

“The U.S. housing market has shown strong signs of life in recent months, but many local markets continue to struggle with high levels of negative equity as the result of home prices that are well off their peaks. In addition, persistently high unemployment rates are hobbling a robust real estate recovery in most areas,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “While the worst of the foreclosure problem is in the rear view mirror for a narrow majority of counties, others are still working through rising levels of foreclosure activity, inventory and distressed sales as they continue to clear the wreckage left behind by a bursting housing bubble.”

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