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Monday, October 19, 2009

Campbell Surveys: ‘Mini-Boom’ in Existing Home Market

by Calculated Risk on 10/19/2009 02:21:00 PM

Excerpts posted with permission from Campbell Surveys

In September the housing market took a major turn to the upside, according to respondents to the Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance Monthly Survey of Real Estate Market Conditions. Real estate agent survey respondents reported average residential property prices rose 6% from August to September ...

The reported month-to-month price increase of 6% was driven by high demand for REO –also commonly referred to as foreclosed properties--according to transaction data reported by survey respondents. ...

The average price for non-distressed properties remained nearly constant between August and September. ...

Strong demand for moderately priced REO caused time-on-market for these properties to decline markedly. In August, damaged REO stayed on the market an average of 9.4 weeks; by September, time-on-market had declined to 7.0 weeks. For move-in ready REO, time-on-market declined from 8.0 weeks in August to 5.9 weeks in September. In contrast, average time-on-market for non-distressed properties rose from 13.0 weeks in August to 14.2 weeks in September.

First–time homebuyer demand for properties continued to be strong in the month of September. First-time homebuyers accounted for 42% of home purchase transactions in September. ...

Many agents indicated an REO buying frenzy in local markets, especially California. “Entry level REO's are taken by the storm! Many multiple offers!” exclaimed a California agent. “Low inventory and high demand are resulting in 20-60 offers on most properties in the entry level to moderate price points. First-time homebuyers have difficulty competing with investors and high down-payment buyers,” reported another real estate agent located in California. “Banks and listing agents are pricing these REO's at liquidation prices to encourage a bidding war and it's working,” wrote a real estate agent located in Florida.

Despite reporting strong increases in both average prices and number of transactions, real estate agents responding to the survey gave a hint of looming problems caused by rising unemployment. For the third month in a row, the survey’s inventory index showed rising inventories of short sale properties, while inventories of REO properties were flat or declining.
emphasis added
As we've discussed before, there is a buying frenzy right now in the existing home market, especially at the low end. Unfortunately existing home sales add little to the economy (compared to new home sales). And the impact is even less than usual right now because many of the marginal buyers are using the first-time homebuyer tax credit as their downpayment, and have little additional money to spend on furniture or upgrades.

For the economy, the numbers to track are housing starts, new home sales, and residential investment - not existing home sales.