BOSTON -- Many Americans assume that homes facing foreclosure sell for deep discounts, but a detailed analysis of some 4 million recent sales shows that certain kinds of distressed properties actually fetch as much as 19 percent above market value on average.
"It's definitely counterintuitive," says Daren Blomquist of market watcher RealtyTrac, which conducted the study.
RealtyTrac looked at what millions of distressed and non-distressed homes sold for during the 12 months ended March 31 and compared that with each property's estimated market value based on location, lot size and other characteristics.
The firm also broke down the distressed-property market into 24 subcategories using such factors as a home's age and how far along it was in the foreclosure process at the time of sale.
RealtyTrac found that while distressed properties in general offer around a 14 percent discount off fair-market value, different subcategories perform very differently.
For instance, abandoned properties scheduled for foreclosure auction, built between 1950 and 1990 and worth less than the homeowner's unpaid mortgage balance average 28 percent below market value.
By contrast, the typical "bank-owned" property -- a home where the lender has already completed the foreclosure process and put the place up for sale -- actually sell for 3 percent above market value.
Two classes of distressed homes do even better than that.
Homes worth less than the seller's unpaid mortgage but not yet officially in foreclosure sell for 19 percent average premiums, while bank-owned homes build before 1951 typically fetch 7 percent above market value.
Blomquist attributes the higher-than-expected prices to competition among house-hunters for the best distressed parcels as the housing sector slowly recovers.
"I think it's a reflection of a market that's become so starved for inventory that some categories of distressed properties are seeing multiple offers and competitive bidding," he says. "That's pushing prices up."
The expert says the lesson for professional investors and home-buying consumers is that not all distressed properties sell for rock-bottom prices any more.
"You really want to narrow down your search to just those subcategories that offer the best discounts," he says.
Market segments that RealtyTrac found offer the best deals include:
Residences that are abandoned, already in foreclosure and built before 1951 (26 percent average discount)
Homes that are in the foreclosure process, but whose current owners owe less than the property's market value (26 percent typical discount)
Properties that are abandoned and scheduled for foreclosure auction (25 percent average discount)
Homes that are bank-owned and vacant -- i.e., the previous owner or tenant has either moved voluntarily or been evicted (18 percent typical discount)
House Rich: Neighborhoods With the Biggest Price Jumps
Why Some Foreclosures Now Sell at Above-Market Prices
Year-over-year gain: 21.5%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $224,450
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $272,750
Residents enjoy hundreds of nearby hiking trails, as well as indoor culture at the Fine Arts Center and the Colorado Springs Philharmonic.
Year-over-year gain: 22%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $318,375
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $388,500
This neighborhood, bounded by the Schuylkill River and 20th Street, and by South Street and Christian Street, was viewed as a slum in the 1970s, when Philadelphia's Redevelopment Authority took over abandoned properties.
Year-over-year gain: 24.2%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $516,450
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $641,500
Magnolia covers 4 square miles, making it the second-largest Seattle neighborhood by area. It features a lighthouse built in 1881 and is home to Seattle's largest park, at 534 acres.
Year-over-year gain: 32.1%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $210,446
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $277,898
Paradise Valley, in the heart of the Scottsdale-Phoenix area, gets an average 294 days of sunshine a year -- hence, the more than 200 golf courses.
Year-over-year gain: 32.2%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $344,750
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $455,835
The Washington Post listed Sunset Hills among "the shortest commute" category of Virginia neighborhoods, with an average commute time of just over 21 minutes. And Dulles International Airport is about six miles away.
Year-over-year gain: 44.5%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $247,735
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $357,900
This once-seedy area has become hot in recent years. It's packed with art galleries and chic retail shops, as well as new upscale bars and restaurants next to venerable family-owned cafeterias.
Year-over-year gain: 46.9%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $284,750
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $418,250
Brighton, once the center of New England's cattle trade, is in the northwest corner of Boston, on the Charles River. The Brighton Branch Library is Boston's first renovated LEED Green Building. The Brighton Police station is shown here.
Year-over-year gain: 47.5%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $223,175
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $329,100
South Loop joins a number of other once-blighted neighborhoods on this list that have been redeveloped and are now hot. The site of former rail yards, it was known for many years more for its vices (as in brothels, burlesques) than its residential virtues.
Year-over-year gain: 48.7%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $241,000
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $358,450
Also: Fairgrounds, San Jose (41.4%); La Jolla, San Diego (40%); Woodland Hills, Los Angeles (37.5%); Southwest Anaheim, Anaheim (35.2%); Berryessa, San Jose (34.4%).
Newhall, the southernmost and oldest district of Santa Clarita, was the first permanent Anglo settlement in the valley. Ranches-turned-film studios dot the area, including the Melody Ranch, which was once owned by Gene Autry. The ranch hosts the annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival.
Year-over-year gain: 48.8%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $504,250
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $750,275
This is the most affluent neighborhood in Charlotte; the median income is $79,737, according to Zillow. That compares with a median of $46,975 for Charlotte. A high point of the area is the Duke Mansion, built in 1915 by tobacco magnate James Buchanan Duke.
Year-over-year gain: 57.4%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $167,450
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $263,615
People who live here, according to classifications Zillow uses to characterize residents, are likely to be: Corporate Climbers, Multi-lingual Urbanites or in a category called "Bright Lights, Big City," which Zillow uses to describe "singles ranging in age from the early 20s to mid-40s who have moved to an urban setting."
Year-over-year gain: 97.3%
Median sale price, Jan. 2013: $668,250
Median sale price, Jan. 2014: $1,318,301
New York City’s 92-acre planned community includes areas built on more than 3 million cubic yards of soil and rock, some of which was excavated during the construction of the World Trade Center.
Bloomberg ranked neighborhoods in U.S. cities based on the year-over-year increase in median home sale prices from January 2013 to January 2014. Percentage increases were based on Zillow calculations of median sale prices of all home types and calculated only for neighborhoods with at least 10 sales per month. Only neighborhoods with median home sale prices of at least $250,000 in January 2014 were included. Data were rounded.