The average value of a home declined by 25% to 30% from the period from the third quarter of 2005 to the third quarter of last year. The end of 2005 and beginning of 2006 were the peak of the housing boom. S&P argued that home prices could fall another 7% to 10% this year. Many markets have already suffered a drop in housing values of more than half.
It is hard to believe that any market could escape the devastation that has accompanied the collapse of home prices. But there are several relatively large regions where home prices have actually risen. 24/7 Wall St used the Fiserv Case-Shiller Index for all 384 metro areas in the United States, known officially as MSAs (Metropolitan Statistical Areas). We examined the regions where housing prices improved and took the 10 MSAs with the greatest increases in home values. Additionally, markets that did not maintain their highest prices were also excluded. 24/7 also reviewed foreclosure data in each area. This data was provided by RealtyTrac. The assumption was, and it proved to be true, that regions with strong home prices also had low foreclosures rates. Finally, we reviewed the government’s unemployment data on each MSA to look for correlations between joblessness and home prices.
The markets in which home prices have risen since the market collapsed are not concentrated in one part of the country. They share a few things in common. The first is that one or two industries or companies which have continued to do well through the recession employ many local residents. Government jobs fall into this category. Some cities on the list have large universities, state, or federal government offices located within them.
Unfortunately, there is not much to learn from the analysis that can be used as a template for a national recovery in home prices. Most real estate markets do not have a large employment base which has remained stable. On the contrary, cities which have experienced price drops of more than 50% since the real estate peak are almost always in areas where major employers have been nearly destroyed. This included the car towns in Michigan, construction centers like Las Vegas, and retirement centers like Florida and Arizona.
It is not scientific to assign luck as the reason that something like housing has done very well or very poorly. But, the cities on this list show that factors which are arbitrary and beyond the control of homeowners are essentially what have kept prices high compared to a national market which has been a disaster. Better to be lucky than good.