Fannie Economists Project 1.8M Borrowers Could Regain Equity in 2013

The broadening housing recovery has firmed up home prices around the country, with the potential to restore many underwater mortgages to a position of positive equity, according to Fannie Mae’s Economic and Strategic Research (ESR) group.


Citing data from CoreLogic, Orawin Velz, Fannie Mae’s director of economic and strategic research, notes that 1.7 million properties moved from negative to positive equity last year. Provided the home price gains seen so far this year continue, Velz anticipates another 1.8 million properties will rise out of their underwater positions by the end of 2013.

In a new commentary piece entitled “Down But Not Out: Many Underwater Borrowers Will Likely Regain Buoyancy This Year,” Velz examines the extent to which home price appreciation can lift underwater properties into positive equity positions and the anticipated recovery time for transitioning the nation’s housing markets toward “normal” activity.

“The first annual rise in home prices on a national basis in six years has contributed to a positive feedback loop for the housing market by helping many underwater homeowners … regain their positive equity positions,” Velz said. “This improving trend should help spur mobility and housing turnover….The broader economy also should benefit.”

Main measures of home prices showed continued robust gains through the first part of 2013, thanks to an improving labor market, low mortgage rates, and very lean inventory—which Velz contends has been the principal driver of price gains so far.

She says rising home prices should help some homeowners who have involuntarily remained on the sidelines to put their homes on the market. According to CoreLogic’s data, the number of underwater residential properties peaked in the fourth quarter of 2011 at 12.1 million and declined in each quarter of 2012, with 10.4 million properties remaining in negative equity by year-end.

About 3.7 percent of those—or 1.8 million—were in a slightly negative position, which Velz defined as those with loan-to-value (LTV) ratios of 100 to less than 105 percent. She says these properties may switch to positive equity positions this year assuming home prices continue their upward trend. Based on CoreLogic’s latest negative equity report, the share of properties with a slightly negative equity position varied across the country, ranging from 1.3 percent in North Dakota to 5.4 percent in Georgia.

Velz concludes that all but about 10 percent of properties currently underwater will be back in positive territory within three and a half years. Most analysts expect home prices to trend up this year. Zillow polled more than 100 economists, housing analysts, and other industry experts in March. The consensus for median appreciation in 2013 was 4.8 percent, with only two respondents out of 117 indicating a decline.

Applying the Zillow survey’s consensus expectation for home prices—a cumulative gain of 17.5 percent between 2013 and 2016—and assuming continued amortization, Velz says most of the underwater properties at the end of 2012 would likely regain their positive equity positions by 2016—all except the most severely underwater, meaning those with LTVs of 120 percent or higher.

Underwater properties remain concentrated in a few states with those in the worst five states—Nevada, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan—accounting for nearly a third of total underwater properties, according to CoreLogic’s assessment. Velz stresses the speed of the transition of underwater loans to positive equity positions is expected to vary regionally.

Nevada and Arizona are among the states with the highest share of negative equity properties, yet these states witnessed very robust home price gains over the past year, Velz points out. On the other hand, Michigan’s negative equity share is the lowest among the five worst states, but its home price appreciation has been the most modest.

Fannie Mae’s economic and research director also noted strong home price appreciation bodes well for California, which was consistently among the five worst underwater states until the second quarter of 2011. Since then, California has moved out of the worst five states, as its home prices troughed in the first quarter of 2011—much sooner than trends have demonstrated in other severely underwater states and much earlier than national prices, which didn’t witness a trough until 2012.

According to Velz, that rate at which underwater borrowers are elevated above the break-even surface will depend on the severity of their underwater conditions—or their LTV ratios—and the pace of home price gains in specific markets.


The Ripple Effect


The home bidding wars are back!

multiple bids real estate market

The competition has been most intense in California, where 9 out of 10 homes sold in San Francisco, Sacramento and cities in Southern California have been drawing competing bids.


The bidding wars are back. Seemingly overnight, many of the nation’s major housing markets have gone from stagnant to sizzling, with for-sale listings drawing offers from a large number of house hunters.

In March, 75% of agents with broker Redfin said their clients’ offers were countered by rival bids, up from 56% who said so in late 2011.


The competition has been most intense in California, where 9 out of 10 homes sold in San Francisco, Sacramento and cities in Southern California drew competing bids during the month. And at least two-third of listings in Boston, Washington D.C., Seattle and New York generated bidding wars.

“The only question is not whether a new listing will get multiple bids but how many it will get,” said Kris Vogt, who manages 14 Coldwell Banker offices in the Sacramento area. One home in an Elk Grove, Calif., subdivision recently received 62 separate bids. The final sale price was for more than $150,000, well above its $129,000 asking price.

In Cambridge, Mass., two condos that could be combined into one large home hit the market two weeks ago for $800,000 each, according to Pat Villani, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New England.

“The brokers stopped taking names after the number of bidders reached 250,” she said. The winning bidder offered $2 million for both units.

Related: Five best markets to buy a home

Homebuyers eager to purchase before home prices and mortgage rates rise are finding few homes for sale as sellers hold out for better deals, said Glenn Kelman, Redfin’s CEO.

Many homeowners are still underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, and they want to wait until selling becomes profitable again. By doing so, they can avoid short sales, which carry big hits on credit scores, 85 to 160 points, according to FICO.


“Many people have been holding on for a profit and they’re just now getting their heads above water,” said Kelman.

Those who want to sell and buy a new home are encountering a market where it’s difficult to find a new place of their own, said Vogt.

Related: Five best markets to sell a home

Over the past few months, Jackie and Cliff Kaufman have bid on four different homes in St. Petersburg, Fla., including one short sale and a foreclosure.

The pair, who have two adult children and run an online jewelry business, said they bid $5,000 more than the $495,000 asking price on the first home they had their eye on and never heard back from the seller’s agent. They were later told the house sold for nearly $550,000.

Next, they bid on a short sale listed for $600,000. This time, they came in $10,000 above the asking price and again, they were beaten out. The house was only on the market for two days.

The third attempt to make an offer on a bank-owned property was also met with silence.

Related: Buy or rent? 10 major cities

“It was very frustrating,” said Jackie Kaufman. “We felt we were always on the outside of the loop and that people who won the homes had the inside track.”

By the fourth try, the couple successfully bid through a listing agent, who they believe pushed their bid harder in order to earn a double commission since she was representing both the buyer and seller in the deal. And they managed to get the place for $30,000 less than the asking price.

They were lucky. Inventories of homes for sale continue to shrink. In February, the National Association of Realtors reported a 19.2% decline in inventory year-over-year. While the number of homes for sale should rise with the onset of the spring selling season, housing inventory is expected to remain low, pushing prices higher.

Related: Fastest growing boomtowns

And new home construction, especially in markets hit hard by the housing bust, is still moving forward at a snail’s pace, since the cost to build the homes is often more than what the property ends up selling for, said Jeff Culbertson, president of Coldwell Banker’s Southern California operations.

Even though home prices are on the rise, the balance between buyers and sellers has been thrown off balance, said Kelman.

“With buyers out in force and sellers cautious, the market is in an awkward ‘tweener’ phase,” he said. 

CoreLogic: Home prices rise the most in seven years

By Kerri Ann Panchuk

 • April 3, 2013 • 7:00am

February home prices rose 10.2% from year ago levels, the largest annual gain in nearly seven years and the 12th consecutive month of national home price growth, CoreLogicsaid Wednesday.

The real estate analytics firm attributes the steep rise to rapid price appreciation in several West Coast states—namely California, Phoenix and Las Vegas.

CoreLogic’s [stock CLGX] [stock] Home Price Index report for February includes the impact of distressed sales. However, when subtracting distressed properties from the equation, prices still rose 10.1% from year ago levels. And from January to February, home prices edged up 0.5% nationally with distressed sales included.

Without distressed properties, prices rose 1.5% month-to-month.

Looking forward, the CoreLogic Pending Home Price Index suggests March prices will rise 10.2% over year ago levels and 1.2% from February.

The states with the steepest price appreciation rates with distressed sales accounted for include Nevada, where prices rose 19.3% annually, followed by Arizona (up 18.6%), California (15.3%), Hawaii (14.6%) and Idaho (13.5%).

On the flip side, the states where prices dropped the most include Delaware, with a 4.4% drop, Alabama (1.5% decline) and Illinois where values fell 1%.

Still, for all transactions, the home price index remains 26.3% below levels reached during the market’s peak in April 2006.


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