“Shadow Inventory” was a dirty word for most of the past recession with respect to the housing market. In general terms, it meant there was a large number of homes in foreclosure or soon to be foreclosed upon, which would flood the market and drive down home prices, and keep the housing market on its heels for years to come. While no one will argue that the sheer volume of foreclosures nationwide and in Southern California is substantial, the threat of flooding the market has not materialized.
In San Diego County, as in most areas of Southern California, the Banks were smart and only released foreclosures to the marketplace in measured increments, so as to attract interest in inventory at reduced prices without flooding the market. San Diego County foreclosures have recently been reported to be down 51% in comparison to a year ago. As a result, investment groups interested in purchasing large quantities of lower priced foreclosure properties for the strong rental market have helped generate an overall market craving in San Diego County for relatively low-priced housing (generally posture below approximately $500,000). Brokers active within marketplaces sporting significant volumes of housing priced below $500,000 report multiple offers for any available inventory, often driving up prices. The average price of new and existing housing sold last month in San Diego County ($335,500), accounted for a 1.7% increase over the average price of homes sold in June of 2011. The total sales volume in the resale market county-wide for single family detached homes through the first half of 2011 represents almost a 10% increase over the first six months of last year.
The market recovery for low-priced housing, coupled with long-standing reduced interest rates, is very slowly beginning to work itself up the price ladder of housing throughout San Diego County. For example, in higher priced submarkets such as the North County Coastal Area, rates of absorption for new home developments have grown from an average of one sale per month per project last year, to approximately two sales per month in 2012.
Although generation of new jobs in San Diego County is headed in the right direction, the slow pace of employment growth has been the major force preventing a rapid recovery in the housing market. With the potential cut back in government defense spending in San Diego County next year, the pace of job growth is not expected to pick up in the very near term. However, continued low levels of housing inventory (the number of homes listed for sale at the end of the 1st Quarter of 2012 fell to its lowest level in nearly three years), government maintenance of low interest rates, and continued growth in demand for rental housing is expected to continue to fuel the housing market recovery, but at a continued gradual rate of growth. Most economic forecasters are predicting housing appreciation in San Diego County in the near term to range between approximately 2% and 3% annually. The moderate pace of market recovery may be a blessing in disguise; as a more gradual velocity in recovery will give the market its legs for more sustained growth; in contrast to the rapid inflation run-ups of past market cycles which eventually lead to faster boom to bust corrections.
Down the road, this bona fide housing recovery at the bottom of the “food chain” so to speak, will likely be looked upon as the flash point which signaled the beginning of the market recovery in the housing market in San Diego County.
Source: Bob McFarland, Marketing Consultant, (858) 568-7428 ext. 12