St Louis Housing Outlook

The housing outlook for St Louis continues to look bleak. After entering 2010 on a high note, when prices had rose in the fourth quarter of 2009, prices lost momentum as the year progressed. With prices in decline throughout 2010 the expectations for 2011 appear to be the beginning of market stabilization. Above average foreclosure rates, high unemployment and an uncertain economic climate have slowed recovery in the St. Louis area.Local news housing coverage has focused on five key areas this past year. With the focus on the housing and market outlook, home prices, foreclosure rates, unemployment rates and vacancy rates. This trend is likely to continue as we progress through 2011 as conditions remain similar to what we experienced in 2010.Housing and Market OutlookThe housing and market outlook is perhaps the most prominent topic in the St. Louis Housing News Headlines. Housing and Market Outlook Reports are issued in January of each year and are based on more than 20 factors such as the volume of house sales, mortgage lending statistics, new home construction, regional economic growth and development, commercial building statistics, employment levels, historical trends, and consumer confidence.Dr. Lawrence Yun is the Chief Economist of the National Association of Realtors┬« and he recently spoke at a conference hosted by the St. Louis Association of Realtors┬«. During the conference Dr. Yun forecast that the housing market will continue to look “ugly” for the short term. Part of the reasoning behind this statement is that there will continue to be above average foreclosure rates, high levels of unemployment and the national economic outlook continues to appear bleak.Dr. Yun predicts that there will be a 300,000 unit increase in the number of resale houses sold in 2011 and a 170,000 unit increase in the number of newly built houses sold. This a marginal increase over 2010 however it does point to stabilization in the housing markets. This stabilization should lead to moderate price increases as markets continue to moderate and become less volatile.The St. Louis market outlook will continue to have some influence on commercial investment as well as residential. Investment dollars have flowed at a much slower rate as investors struggle with financing and liquidity in a struggling economy. The trickledown effect of these market realities have a direct impact on unemployment levels as businesses have worked to minimize debts and increased profits as consumer confidence continues to be low.House PricesUnderstandably fluctuations in home values are a concern for any homeowner particularly when you are faced with having to sell your property in an unstable real estate market. Buyers are less confident during an unstable market. This, combined with an overabundant inventory, drives house prices even lower. Prices however will steadily increase but at a modest rate of 2-5% per year.This increase is will be directly tied to improving consumer confidence, foreclosure rates and unemployment levels. As economic outlooks continue to improve it should bring new job prospects for St. Louis. It is unlikely that we will see the explosion in home values that preceded the financial meltdown but moderate growth in all sectors of the St. Louis real estate market is expected.Homeowners throughout 2011 will continue to be subjected to a buyer’s market. This will be marked by extended selling periods, lower home prices and a highly educated class of homebuyers that are patient and willing to aggressively negotiate.Foreclosure RatesThere has been a lot of focus on Distresses Sales which include foreclosures, short sales and the sale of bank or realty holding owned houses. Foreclosure rates have remained high throughout the county. It is predicted that the housing market will stabilize as markets become more accustomed to the new economy.There is a strong belief among experts that foreclosure rates in St. Louis will continue to be above the historical average for the region. Short sales are a mark of the influx of property values that have dropped since the market peaks of 2007. Bank assets have continued to increase with high foreclosure levels and these assets are being rapidly liquidated at reduced prices which have further depressed property pricing in St. Louis.Unemployment RatesThe National Association of Realtors┬« Chief Economist Dr. Lawrence Yun spent a great deal of time during the conference discussing the high unemployment rates and the impact that they have on the housing market. He revealed that there is basically the same number of jobs in the United States today as there were 10 years ago. The problem is that there are 30 million more people. Dr. Yun projects that it will take another 4-6 years to get the unemployment rates back down to 5-6%.Since the housing market in St. Louis is driven by psychological factors, the unemployment rates have a direct impact on the confidence of consumers. Not only is steady employment a requirement for obtaining mortgage financing but it also gives homebuyers the confidence that once they purchase a house they will be able to afford it.2011 will continue to see above average unemployment in St. Louis and surrounding areas as industry struggles to adapt to the new economic reality. As markets stabilize industry will once again begin to expand creating new employment opportunities. This will result in increased consumer confidence and will contribute to an improved national economic outlook.Vacancy RatesVacancy rates continue to remain high as people double up. Doubling Up refers to the tendency of families to live together in the same house. Adult children are staying home with their parents longer and helping with finances while obtaining post secondary education. Senior parents are choosing to live with their adult children in their homes rather than downsizing to an apartment. This arrangement is a win-win situation as grandparents can watch the grandchildren saving the family money on child care.Another form of doubling up is the taking on of room-mates or tenants. Homeowners rent out a room or portion of the house and in some cases there is also a sharing of utility costs. Although this has resulted in a savings for tenants, landlords have been impacted by the increase in vacancies as a result. Although this has a limited impact on employment and housing markets it is another indicator of a struggling economy.Overall OutlookThe overall outlook for St. Louis for 2011 is one of slow and steady stabilization. Home prices should stop dropping and slowly begin to increase at moderate levels throughout the year. St. Louis homebuyers that are prepared to enter the real estate market can take advantage of low home prices and high foreclosure rates to maximize their buying power.With the real estate market reacting to market conditions buyers have an opportunity to educate themselves and operate from a position of negotiating strength. Above average foreclosure rates, high unemployment and an uncertain economic climate have slowed recovery in the St. Louis area and the local focus on the negative is having an impact on the overall market. You can know more at

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