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What is lurking out there in the shadows?

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POSTED May 4, 2012 1:20 a.m.

There is a growing consensus among economists - and experts with firms that track housing such as CoreLogic and RealtyTrac - that the housing slide has ended.

That observation comes with a huge caveat: Hitting bottom doesn’t mean recovery especially in how it has been defined in past housing cycles.

In a mixed snapshot taken in March some housing markets such as San Francisco and the Silicon Valley are seeing price increases, others have stabilized, and others dropped on average 0.8 percent in prices. That national average for price drops is the lowest since May 2010. It is also significantly below February’s drop of 2 percent.

And while the improving health of the Bay Area housing market and economy bodes well for the Northern San Joaquin Valley, the biggest concern in places like Manteca, Turlock, Ripon, Lathrop, Stockton, and Modesto is the so-called foreclosure shadow inventory.

Banks had about 450,000 foreclosures nationally at the end of March. That is on top of another 2 million loans that are in some stage of the foreclosure process. There are another 1.7 million homes that have not had a mortgage payment made in more than 90 days according to mortgage data.

The question is how much of a shadow inventory is there in this region now that we are approaching six years into the free fall of housing prices?

Long-time Relators in Manteca who deal with banks can’t get a solid handle on it although several said they are led to believe it will start falling off after this year.

That makes sense given the Northern San Joaquin Valley was one of the first places where prices started crumbling. Since the region hit the foreclosure skids first the odds are they will stabilize and start the long road to a housing recovery sooner than most areas.

Manteca has been absorbing an average of 1,300 existing home sales in the past four years in addition to 300 plus new housing units being built and sold. That is a major positive no matter what you use as a yardstick elsewhere in the region and even much of California.

Available inventory has sustained double-digit drop-offs which also helps move things in a positive direction.

It is why some Realtors believe the shadow inventory in Manteca at least will be absorbed without sustaining a further significant hit on prices.

They all emphasize, though, that market bottoms are never flat-line affairs but rather bumpy rides and that an increase in housing value of any consequences is a long way off.

 

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