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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Break out the bubbly, the bleeding has slowed…

Today’s Detroit Free Press has a story under the headline – Oakland Co. housing set for rebound, report says. The story is based upon a report that shows that assessed housing values in Oakland County dropped less last year than the year before; with a forecast of an even smaller decline in the assessed value for next year. The story also reported the decline in our foreclosure rate. The assessed value drop reported for 2011 was 9.18%, which was les than the 11.75% for 2010. The 2012 forecast drop in assessed values is only 3%. Foreclosures peaked in 2010 at 9,292 in Oakland County and are forecast to be down about 11% this year. There were even two markets in which the assessed values actually went UP! The city of Northville (at least the portion in Oakland County reported an increase of .53% and the city of Pleasant Ridge was up .60%. Below are the numbers for the markets that I track in Oakland County:


Milford Township: -5.42%


Highland Township: -6.87%


Commerce Township: -3.84%


White Lake Township: -6.50%


Lyon Township:-2.73%


City of South Lyon: -5.55%


West Bloomfield Township: -7.33%


While it may seem strange to celebrate while declines in assessed values are still taking place, the decline to low single digit losses in value are good indicators that the market is in the process of leveling off and about to head in a positive direction. There are still some sore spots in Oakland County. Pontiac, for instance is off 22.89% in assessed values. Other hard hit cities include Hazel Park at -17,74, Oak Park at -14.81, Fenton at -13.95 and Southfield at -13.20%. Of the Oakland County townships, Waterford was the hardest hit at -11.70%, with Novi also in double digits at -10.18%


The Free Press story went onto chronicle some of the tax base consequences and the difficulties that local governments are having dealing with the revenue losses, due to lower taxes. It’s hard for homeowners to be too empathetic to the trials of local governments when many find themselves trapped in homes with negative equity; however, those reduced local budgets are starting to manifest themselves in reduced local services and local infrastructures that are badly in need to attention.


So, what are we to make of stories like this? Certainly everyone is searching for the bottom of the current economic and housing malaise. Some of the stories that we see about increases in existing and new homes sales are caused by the seasonal nature of real estate – more people just finally get out and start looking to buy it eh spring. However, if you look across the whole spectrum of articles that are finding small positive signs of recovery, yo can’t help but be hopeful. There is sufficient evidence in the decline of bad things, whether it be the rate of foreclosures or the lower rate of assessed value loss; and, the stories of increases in applications for mortgages and housing starts going up and inventories going down, to find reason for optimism that worst is over in this long winter of discontent.


I think I have personally written at least 3-4 blogs over the last few years asking the question, "Are we there yet?” about the bottom of this dreary market. Well, I’m not sure that we’re there yet, but it feels like we’re damned close. It may not be time to break out the Champaign , but maybe I’ll pop the top on Bud (after all it has bubbles, too).

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