Home demand increases, demographics changing

The RadarLogic Composite Price Index fell 4.4 percent during the 12-month period ending in September 2011, the real estate information firm recently reported.

The RadarLogic Composite Price Index fell 4.4 percent during the 12-month period ending in September 2011, the real estate information firm recently reported.

The index tracks year-over-year home value trends, and has shown monthly declines of more than 4 percent since February. This trend is expected to remain for some time, according to analysts, although the firm projects that the pace will slow considerably.

RadarLogic indicates the housing market has shown some signs of improvement recently, such as a 15.4 percent year-over-year increase in home sales during September. This is the largest growth since 2003, and took place in 25 of the metropolitan areas the firm examined.

"Activity is stable, price declines have slowed and it is unlikely that many more borrowers will enter default or that many more homes will go 'underwater," said RadarLogic president and CEO Michael Feder. He noted the firm regards the developing conditions as the beginning of an equilibrium which will assuage consumer fears and restore confidence in the market, setting the stage for a recovery.

As home sales have begun to improve, an interesting new trend has emerged. Data from the Census Bureau indicates more than half of the nation's homeowners were Hispanic during the third quarter. The number of Hispanic homeowners in the nation increased by 288,000 to a total of 6.49 million in the third quarter, creating 53 percent of new households in the United States. 

Alejandro Becerra, former senior housing fellow at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, attributes this trend to a combination of hard work by nonprofit groups and real estate professionals reaching out and a tendency for minority households to take advantage of the lower end of the housing market.

According to Becerra, the low prices appeal more to these individuals and families, while underwater mortgages are concentrated among middle- and upper-income households. Other factors may also contribute.

The third-quarter housing survey run by Fannie Mae found Hispanics had better financial expectations than Americans as a whole, and 57 percent said they consider owning a home a symbol of success. Compared to 33 percent among the broader population, this demonstrates a significantly different attitude. The Center for Responsible Lending notes this development is occurring despite the fact that Hispanics were more likely to receive subprime mortgages in the years from 2004 to 2008.



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