Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Duck! Watch out for falling home prices

tacoma_wa.ju.top.jpgWhere are the best bets for recovery? Tacoma, Wash., tops the rebound list.By Les Christie, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Despite signs that the real estate market might be lurching forward, prices are expected to fall further this year and next.

The average home price in the United States will fall by about 6% by September 2011, according to a joint report between Fiserv and Moody's Economy.com. And that's after plunging more than 27% in the past three years.

Most of the projected home price decline will occur during the usually slow summer months of 2010. After that, prices should begin to stabilize, according to Fiserv, and stay almost flat through fall of 2011.

The main reason for continued decline, according to Mark Zandi, economist and co-founder of Economy.com, is foreclosures -- the same thing that's plagued markets for the past three years.

"Foreclosure sales will pick up this spring as mortgage servicers figure out who can qualify for a modification and who can't," said Zandi.

He figures there are at least 4.5 million mortgage loans either in foreclosure or clearly headed in that direction. When that additional inventory hits the market, it will provide numerous choices for buyers and encourage sellers to drop their listing prices.

The end of two federal programs, which have been propping up markets, will also tamp down prices.

The Federal Reserve has been purchasing mortgage-backed securities since early 2009, scooping up as much as $1.25 trillion worth. That has dampened rate increases by providing a ready market for the securities. But the Fed's program lapses on March 31, when it cedes the playing field to private investors, who will almost surely demand higher rates.

Any resulting rise in rates will cause some buyers to withdraw from the market and others to look for lower priced homes. Either way, demand for homes drops and so do prices.

A month after the Fed bows out of the mortgage-buying market, the homebuyer tax credit will start to expire. To qualify for the $8,000 credit, homebuyers must sign a contract before April 30 and close by June 30. When the first date passes, many buyers are expected to vacate the market, weakening the demand for homes.

In a broader sense, home prices are ultimately decided by employment. "If [the job market] improvement is stronger than expected, prices will get better. If it's weaker than expected, prices will be worse," Zandi said.

Worst of the worst

The worst performing market will be Miami, Fla. Moody's projects prices there to drop a heart-stopping 29.2% by Sept. 30. That follows a 47.7% decline the metro area recorded in the past three years. Grand total: 64% drop.

Other disastrous performances will be turned in by the Hanford, Calif., metro area, where prices are projected to plummet 27.2% through Sept. 30, 2010 following their 36.9% drop for the previous 36 months. Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm will also register steep drops.

There's some good price news coming out of California's Central Valley for a change; prices will begin to emerge from their free fall toward the end of this year.

In Merced, for example, which crashed and burned by 71.8% in the past three years (through last September), they'll only fall only another 6.2% in the next six months before bouncing back with a rise of 10.1% by Sept. 30, 2011. To top of page


Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.90%4.01%
15 yr fixed3.01%3.13%
5/1 ARM3.19%3.26%
30 yr refi3.98%4.12%
15 yr refi3.08%3.23%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,689.86 -56.12 -0.32%
Nasdaq 5,128.28 -0.50 -0.01%
S&P 500 2,103.84 -4.79 -0.23%
Treasuries 2.20 -0.06 -2.78%
Data as of 3:04pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.88 -0.25 -1.38%
Micron Technology In... 18.51 -1.39 -6.98%
Facebook Inc 94.01 -1.20 -1.26%
Apple Inc 121.30 -1.07 -0.87%
Frontier Communicati... 4.72 0.09 1.94%
Data as of Jul 31

Sections

Some families are outraged at the sums they've been offered by Lufthansa as compensation for the Germanwings plane crash in March which killed 150 people. More

Fast-food chains that operate in more than 30 locations nationwide are the sole target of a new rule in New York to hike their minimum wage to $15. But consumers and small business owners, as well as some employees, may be the ones to pay the price. More

You can't blame it on the economy anymore. More Millennials now have jobs, but are still living at home. More