Finding things to be thankful for in real estate this year requires a little creativity, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here goes our list of things and people for which we are grateful:
1. We are grateful for still having our homes. There were at least 2.7 million foreclosures in the past five years and another 3.1 million homeowners are staring down the barrel of the foreclosure rifle, according to a study by the Center for Responsible Lending at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Since there are about 130 million housing units in America (yes, we know the census was counting apartments in here too), it still means that most of us have not lost our homes so far. For this, we are grateful, although we acknowledge that it ain't over till the fat lady sings.
2. We are grateful for Candy Spelling, who sold her house for $85 million to Petra Ecclestone, the luckiest 22-year-old heiress this side of the Atlantic. We are grateful because this means we don't have to write about it anymore as the highest priced listing in America. We are grateful to Mrs. Spelling for her willingness to take $65 million off her asking price of $150 million and are certain that her listing agents share in that gratitude. We wish we could say the same about the Fleur de Lys mansion owned by Suzanne Saperstein, which has been on and off the market since the dinosaurs roamed without a price drop from its perch of $125 million.
3. We are grateful to Matt Perry, Charlie Sheen and Ozzy Osbourne, for continually buying and selling properties and giving us things to write about. Please forgive our occasional unkindness as we wonder aloud about your collective sanity for listing homes in this market when you don't have to. Although in Ozzy's case, we do wonder if he has to. For more on Matt's madness, click here and here and here. Charlie bought this and sold this. As for Ozzy's homes for sale, he has this one in Malibu and his principal residence in Hidden Hills.
5. We are torn over being grateful for investors, since most of them are from overseas. While we welcome new money to our shores, we fear that America will become a nation of renters mailing our rent checks to people in China, Brazil and Canada. Is this really what we want?
6. We are grateful for Kamala Harris, California's feisty state attorney general (pictured left), who told the big banks where to stick it. Harris withdrew her state's involvement in the work-in-not-so-much-progress settlement agreement that the nation's attorneys general have been hammering out with lenders -- the ones who brought us robo-signing and other foreclosure "oversights." Harris held a hard line and said that she won't give the banks a do-not-go-to-jail card unless they cough up some principal reductions. Can she please run for higher office soon?
7. We are grateful for low-interest mortgage rates, even though it appears that no one can get them. We fail to understand why banks, whose business it is to lend money, appear so unwilling to do that. Too many people can't buy homes because of tighter lending standards. Too many other people are simply afraid to try. With more people working in the gig economy -- holding a series of freelance and part-time jobs -- it's just plain dumb for banks to insist on seeing corporate paychecks as our main sources of income. The recession changed how we support ourselves these days and lending standards need to reflect it.
8. We are grateful for the absurd thinking that occurs when those with vested interests in saving the housing market get together to come up with out-of-the-box ideas. When it isn't especially cold-hearted, we find it amusing. We did not laugh or feel gratitude, however, when the banks began bulldozing homes to reduce unsold inventory. And we are not thankful for HAMP, HARP, Streamline loan modifications or any other drop-in-the-bucket plan out of Washington that didn't work anyway.
9. We are grateful that we live in a democracy where, when we have a government who has been so ineffectual in helping people through difficult times and prefers to diddle around blaming someone else, we can do something about it. We are grateful for Occupy Wall Street for starting a national discussion. (Read our piece about the Occupy Movement taking on today's housing problems here.)
10. We are grateful for the American spirit, which we do believe in the long run will reconnect us with our national sense of compassion for those crushed by the bad lending policies and collapse of the workforce.
Metro movers index: 1.87
Median home price: $142,000
Home value decline from peak: -53.4%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -11.4%
Like most of the state of Florida, the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford statistical area was hit hard by the housing crisis. More than one in five homes in the region is vacant, and more than half of all owned homes are now worth less than the mortgages on them. Real estate prices have declined 53.4% since the 2006 peak. By the second quarter of next year, Fiserv projects median home values will decline an additional 11.4%. For every person in the region looking for a home elsewhere, 1.87 people are looking at real estate in the area.
Click through to see what the median price buys in Orlando.
Metro movers index: 1.88
Median home price: $135,000
Home value decline from peak: -59.2% (8th biggest decline)
Unemployment: 13.6% (13th highest)
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -15.9% (2nd biggest decline)
Almost two out of every three homes with a mortgage in the Las Vegas-Paradise metropolitan area is underwater — meaning the home is worth less than the mortgage on it. This is, by far, the highest rate in the country, and it is 10 percentage points greater than the metro area with the second highest rate. Since the first quarter of 2006, the median home value has dropped nearly 60% in this statistical area, and it is expected to drop another 15.9% by the middle of next year. Nearly 40% of the homes sold in the area had previously been foreclosed upon.
Click through to see what the median price buys in Las Vegas.
This cozy home is an economical choice whose low price sheds light on just how much of a hit Vegas took from the housing meltdown. The home offers mountain views, neat landscaping, ample lighting, access to a community pool and exercise facilities, marble kitchen countertops, a two-car garage, a backyard patio and an decent supply of appliances.
Metro movers index: 1.92
Median home price: $400,000 (9th highest)
Home value decline from peak: -39.9%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -6%
The Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura area of California forms part of the Los Angeles suburbs, and is one of the wealthier regions in the country. It also features some of the most expensive and desirable retirement homes in the country. The median home value is $400,000 — the ninth-highest in the U.S. But even that high price is nearly 40% down from its peak in the second quarter of 2006. Foreclosures in the region are up 24% from last quarter. Many wealthy individuals close to retirement are looking to this area for second homes at bargain prices.
Click through to see what the median price buys in Ventura.
Location: Ventura, Calif.
Sq Ft: 1,878
Ventura, Calif. is a tad more upscale than some other buying hotspots, so it follows that homes are costlier. This 1,878-square-foot single family features a garage, patio and fenced backyard.
Metro movers index: 1.97
Median home price: n/a
Home value decline from peak: -5.9%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: +2.7%
Fort Worth is unlike most of the areas on our list in some key respects. It is the only one of the 10 where home prices are expected to rise by the second quarter of next year, and the only city with an unemployment rate below the national average. The subprime mortgage crisis appears to have completely missed the Fort Worth area altogether. Home prices are down just 5.9% from their peak in 2009. According to Trulia, the biggest reason for the high rate of inbound searches is the large number of people looking to move from the nearby city of Dallas.
Click through to see what the median price buys in Fort Worth.
This new traditional offers quite a bit of space for its price tag and enjoys some charming landscaping. The home shows just how much bang for your buck home buyers enjoy if they opt for this city in the Lone Star State.
Metro movers index: 1.99
Median home price: $205,000
Home value decline from peak: -50.2%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -9.6% (19th biggest decline)
Homes in the West Palm beach area are worth less than half what they were before the recession. Many people have been unable to sell their homes, especially as values are projected by Fiserv to decline an additional 9.6% by the second quarter of 2012. Last year, West Palm Beach had more listings than all but a handful of major U.S. cities. However, inventory will likely be drawn down as foreclosures decline and people begin purchasing dirt-cheap real estate. Nearly one in four of the home sales in the region in the last 12 months was on a formerly foreclosed upon home.
Click through to see what the median price buys near West Palm.
You can live on the water for just over $200K if you purchase this gleaming, tile-floored condo. The unit offers three bedrooms and access to facilities including an expansive swimming pool and tennis courts.
Metro movers index: 2.09
Median home price: $106,000
Home value decline from peak: -59.3% (7th biggest drop)
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -12.2% (6th biggest decrease)
There is arguably no single housing market with a worse outlook than southwest Florida, and Cape Coral-Fort Myers is the hardest-hit area. Housing prices here have already dropped 59.3% from their peak, and Fiserv projects a further decline of 12.2% by the second quarter of next year. According to Corelogic, 47% of the homes in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area are worth less than their mortgages. Foreclosures have increased 35% in the last quarter. However, the long-term outlook may be better than these figures suggest. Real estate agents are giving “foreclosure tours” to show homes that are now worth 40% or less of what they were just five years ago, and the number of people looking for homes in the area is nearly double the number looking to leave.
Click through to see what the median price buys in Fort Myers.
Metro movers index: 2.15
Median home price: $199,000
Home value decline from peak: -48.4%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -9.2%
Just five years ago, the median home price in the greater Fort Lauderdale area was nearly $400,000. As of last quarter, it was less than $200,000, and still falling. Prices are projected to fall an additional 9.2% by the middle of next year. The area is, however, one of the most popular retirement destinations in the country, and many see the current lows as an opportunity to purchase a cheap second home.
Click through to see what the median price buys near Ft. Lauderdale.
Metro movers index: 2.25
Median home price: $200,000
Home value decline from peak: -23.3%
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -1.6%
The Charleston-North Charleston area saw home prices drop nearly 23% since the 2007 peak. Nearly 10% of homes are vacant — one of the highest rates in the country. Charleston has been, and remains, a popular retirement destination. According to Trulia, most of the people looking at homes in Charleston are from other parts of the state and other southern cities.
Click through to see what the median price buys in North Charleston.
Sheesh, that's a lot of room for $200K! The home sits on a quarter-acre landscaped lot and enjoys vistas of a nearby river viewable from the home's backyard porch. The interior has vaulted ceilings and hardwood floors.
Metro movers index: 4.36
Median home price: $180,000
Home value decline from peak: -55.4% (14th biggest decline)
Unemployment: 13.4% (15th highest)
Forecast change in home price through 2Q 2012: -14.8% (3rd biggest decline)
This is one of the largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S. It also has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country — 13.4%. Poor economic conditions have led to a massive drop of over 55% since home prices peaked in 2006. Prices are projected to fall an additional 14.8% by the second quarter of 2012. The area has had massive foreclosures in the past few years, and nearly 40% of the homes sold in the last 12 months were previously foreclosed upon.
Click through to see what the median price buys in San Bernardino.
Metro movers index: 6.03
Median home price: $170,000
Home value decline from peak: -51.4%
Forecast change in Home price through 2Q 2012: -6.5%
Last quarter, the rate of foreclosures in the North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota area jumped 57%, the third-greatest increase in the country. Since the first quarter of 2006, home prices have dropped 51.4%. Foreclosures are likely to increase for some time unless economic conditions improve, as 40.84% of regional homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Further, prices are expected to drop an additional 6.5% by the second quarter of next year. For every person looking to leave the area, six others are searching for homes here.
Click through to see what the median price buys in North Port.
At $88 per square foot this home -- which may have given its builder quite the headache since it was constructed just prior to housing meltdown -- seems like quite a bargain. It offers the usuals and a two-car garage. Throw some palm trees into the mix too.