March 7, 2016

Measuring Progress in the Housing Market

Photo: new affordable homes.

Our most recent housing scorecard provides a closer look at the recovery of our nation’s housing market and the success of the Administration’s programs. While important progress is being made, American families and homeowners continue to recover from the Great Recession. The latest data show progress among key indicators including a strong momentum in existing home sales, an increase in home values – to the highest levels since December 2007 – and a decline in foreclosures.

Here’s a closer look back at some of our progress:

  • Sales of previously owned (existing) homes maintained their momentum in January, rising to their second highest pace since February 2007. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) reported that sales of existing homes (including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and cooperatives) rose 0.4 percent in January to 5.47 million (SAAR) from 5.45 million units in December and were 11.0 percent higher than a year ago. Sales were bolstered by purchases of single-family homes, with sales of multifamily homes declining in January. Existing home sales have been above the 5.0 million mark for 10 of the last 11 months.
  • Home prices continued to rise in December 2015. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) seasonally adjusted purchase-only house price index for December showed home values rose 0.4 percent over the previous month and 5.6 percent over the previous year. The year-over-year house price gain has been 5.6 percent for the past six months. The Case-Shiller index shows home values are at their highest levels since December 2007; house prices peaked during the housing bubble in July 2006 according to this index. (The Case-Shiller and FHFA price indices are released with a 2-month lag.)
  • Foreclosure starts and completions declined in January. Lenders started the public foreclosure process on 41,470 U.S. properties in January, a decrease of 1.0 percent from December and down 18 percent from a year earlier. Lenders completed the foreclosure process (bank repossessions or REOs) on 29,275 U.S. properties in January, a decline of 26 percent from the previous month but 32 percent higher than one year ago. Foreclosure activity has been volatile in recent months as states with a substantial pool of foreclosure inventory move to reduce the backlog. (Source: RealtyTrac).

The Administration’s programs continue to help struggling homeowners. In all, more than 10.2 million mortgage modifications and other forms of mortgage assistance arrangements were completed between April 2009 and the end of January 2016.  More than 2.5 million homeowner assistance actions have taken place through the Making Home Affordable Program, including nearly 1.6 million permanent modifications through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), while the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has offered more than 3.1 loss mitigation and early delinquency interventions through January. These Administration programs continue to encourage improved standards and processes in the industry, with lenders offering families and individuals more than 4.6 million proprietary modifications through December (data are reported with a two-month lag).

Although there is good news overall, the Administration remains committed to helping more Americans realize their dream of home ownership through an improving economy and new programs that will provide greater access to credit.

This is just a brief overview of the February Housing Scorecard. For more information about the health of the housing market and how Administration programs are helping families please visit:

Katherine O’Regan is the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Policy Development & Research.

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