Home prices up slightly, but still not in the clear

An aerial view of a residential area photographed on near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Jeremy Hobson: Let's get to housing. The S&P Case-Shiller Index is out this morning. And it says home prices were up 1.1 percent in June, the third straight monthly increase. But year-over-year, they were down 4.5 percent.

Juli Niemann is an analyst with Smith, Moore and Company. She's with us live
from St. Louis, as she is every Tuesday. Good morning Juli.

Juli Niemann: Morning Jeremy.

Hobson: Well first of all explain these numbers. We have home prices going up month-to-month, but down year-to-year?

Niemann: Well, cheers that it's three straight months of rising prices, but it really is all by region. The sand states -- Florida, Arizona, California, Nevada -- still really aren't showing real signs of life yet. But the rest of the country is making very slight progress. And if you combine that with the increased consumer spending, there is a little bit of hope out there.

Hobson: A little bit of hope. So you would say that overall, this is a good number?

Niemann: It's not bad -- and that's the only news we can expect these days, because cutting interest rates -- historic low interest rates -- hasn't made any difference. The housing inventory is still huge. You've got about 7 million in foreclosure, and the lower-priced houses are the ones that are not seeing any pickup -- it's the high-end. We have to move that 7 million in inventory before you really get any kind of recovery. And that's basically going to be jobs, hanging onto the income, existing household debt, getting debt to manageable levels.

Hobson: As you say, the interest rates are already at very low levels. Is there something more that the government or anybody else should be doing right now to boost the housing market further?

Niemann: There's nothing the Fed can do, but what the government can do is step in through Fanny and Freddie -- the housing lenders of last resort -- they can help with the refinancing. A lot of homeowners have 7 or 8 percent mortgages and can't refinance because of new tougher standards. The house has to be 20 percent more than what you're owing on it currently -- that's a tough thing to do with the dropping prices. If they could refi at today's lower prices, you get 4.5 percent rates -- that unleashes huge spending power, and direct stimulus to the economy. And homeowners less likely to default and walk away from the problems, making it even worse.

Hobson: Juli Niemann, analyst with Smith, Moore and Company. Thanks so much as always.

Niemann: You bet.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...