Home prices drop for fourth straight quarter. Wow – that sounds bad.
Wow, that doesn’t sound bad. For comparison the NASDAQ index was down 1.6% today. In addition, always remember median prices are not as straight forward as it might seem. The mix of housing that sells changes between the periods being compared. Often (though maybe not this time) as the housing speculation subsides the mix of houses shifts as fewer expensive houses are bought which would tend to mean even if prices for identical houses stayed the same the median price (of houses actually sold) would decline.
There are real changes taking place in the real estate market but the big changes are increased inventories, increased mortgage defaults and a credit crunch – not declining prices. My prediction of price drops was as small as any almost any I saw over the last few years. And so far, the declines are even less than I thought we would see. The biggest factor for the depth of the pricing declines is going to be how many houses are forced into foreclosure (which is unfortunately possibly going to be high due to adjustable rate mortgages being adjusted up and requiring higher mortgage payments).
In the short term, the credit crunch is having an impact and that may increase if the jumbo loans (for those with significant down payment and good credit) continue to be hard to finance. But I don’t expect that to be the situation even 3 months from now – of course I could be wrong. The real estate situation (pricing, inventory…), as often is the case, is hugely impacted by the location. Some areas, like Arizona and Florida, are being hardest hit now.