On the House: Foreclosures at lowest level in a decade

Can you be a Monday morning quarterback on a Sunday morning?

If not, let me say that we are still on cleanup duty for the real estate market of 2016.

We'll start with the worst: foreclosures.

As of November, the number of started foreclosures reached its lowest level in 10 years.

Filings - default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions - were reported on 104,111 U.S. properties in November, a drop of nearly 10 percent from the previous month and down more than 7 percent from 2014.

The report also shows one in every 1,268 U.S. housing units with a foreclosure filing during the month, RealtyTrac, the real estate search engine, reported in December.

In South Jersey, foreclosures, bank-owned repossessions and short sales continue to have an impact on prices, because, if you have patience with slug-like lenders, they cost less, especially compared with newer homes.

A large number of these distressed homes are newer, the result of buyers talked into mortgages they never could pay back.

Pro Teck Valuation Services of Waltham, Mass., for example, places Atlantic City-Hammonton ninth on its list of 10 worst-performing metro areas in terms of price appreciation in 2015.

I use this only because I like the name, but SmartAsset has published a survey of homes across the United States that the typical millennial will be able to afford.

The typical Philadelphia millennial can afford a $45,700 home, which isn't great, considering that a relatively low median net worth in Philadelphia makes it hard for the city's millennials to pay for a home, the report said.

The median net worth in the city is less than a quarter of the national average - meaning that many young people in the city may have trouble coming up with a down payment sufficient for a home.

The third-quarter median price of a house in Philadelphia was $164,900, with the lowest sale price - $67,400 - occurring in the southwest portion of the city, according to Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach Realtors' HomExpert Report.

The median is about 10 percent above last year's third-quarter.

Taking sales quarter to quarter rather than year over year, home-value increases continued in the third period from the second of 2015, as measured by Kevin Gillen, chief economist for Meyers Research and senior research fellow at Drexel University's Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation.

"Home sales are finally becoming much more democratically and equitably distributed across the city," Gillen said. "Low-income and first-time home buyers are an increasing share of all home sales."

Despite what millennials appear to be going up against in Philadelphia, there were more first-time buyers in the market generally, which is critical to housing-market recovery.

Looser credit is fueling this booming first-time buyer demand, contends Edward Pinto, who co-directs the American Enterprise Institute's International Center on Housing Risk, but he doesn't seem to see this as a good thing.

Loose credit, "in combination with shortness of supply, as evidenced by a seller's market now in its 38th month, is fueling a vicious cycle that is driving real home prices higher - up 14 percent over the last 13 quarters and spurring calls for even looser credit," Pinto said.

I've touched on interest rates in recent weeks in the context of the quarter-percentage-point increase from zero in the Fed fund rate, but I need to emphasize that consumer confidence is more critical to home purchase decisions.

And that confidence appears to be rising.

aheavens@phillynews.com

215-854-2472 @alheavens

Real Estate Tools
Looking for a new home? Search Philadelphia real estate »
Browse Recent Home Sales »
Compare Philadelphia mortgage rates »