This past week has brought a flurry of housing market news that is often conflicting and generally imprecise, and that includes news about the markets in Minnesota.
By one measure, market values were up a smidge in the Twin Cities in December although that information doesn’t track with December and January data from metro area realtor groups. For the year 2009, however, Minnesota home prices are down but by differing degrees in different surveys.
Another batch of mixed messages came Tuesday and early Wednesday with reports that new home sales fell 11.2 percent in January, the lowest on record, except in the Midwest. But even that Midwest anomaly doesn’t suggest the housing market has stabilized.
One of the most troubling bursts of data was contained in a Chris Snowbeck report in Wednesday’s Pioneer Press. In it, he reported on a First American CoreLogic study, with news that 24 percent of all U.S. home mortgages are “underwater,” or carrying more debt than the current market value of the property. The Twin Cities is only slightly better; 16.9 percent, or 75,483 metro area mortgages, are considered underwater.
That is downward pressure on the Minnesota housing market that should give us all a sinking feeling. And it should have policy makers and real estate brokers and bankers exploring new programs to prop up the housing market as a foundation for an economic recovery.