Could Home Prices See A Double-Dip?

Home price numbers have ended their free-fall, but a lot housing experts are still concerned about a possible double-dip.

Integrated Asset Services, which tracks troubled properties, says its House Price Index fell .2% in August. It’s the second down month in a row for the index, which saw a 2.8% rise in this year’s first quarter.

The slowdown, however slight, is ominous, says Dave McCarthy, president and CEO of Integrated Asset Services. That’s because there’s a “shadow inventory” of foreclosed properties that remain unlisted and unsold that could throw a monkey wrench in the housing recovery. “We know there’s a sizable inventory of bank-owned homes out there that will be listed at some point, and that could ignite a new wave of stress in the housing market,” McCarthy says.

According to Integrated, several of the nation’s hardest-hit areas may already be feeling the strain. The index reports two of the country’s most distressed counties—San Joaquin in California (Stockton) and Lee in Florida (Fort Myers)—both of which were down nearly 50% from their high-water marks, fell another 7% in August.

Integrated’s numbers are very similar to those reported by real estate info site It’s numbers, released today, say housing prices nationally were down .1% in August, versus July. Zillow was only slightly less downbeat than Integrated on prices going forward. “Nationally, we may see September turn in a positive month-over-month change in home values but, thereafter, values are expected to start dropping again, and we expect them to keep dropping until sometime in the spring of this coming year, at which time we will have reached a true bottom in home values nationally,” Stan Humphries, the firm’s chief economist says.

Humphries is particularly concerned about the expiration of the $8,000 first time home buyer tax credits on Dec. 1. Without them, buyers may be less anxious to buy.

The Southern California market, which led the nation into the boom and the bust, is still showing signs of improvement, says researcher MDA DataQuick. September was the 15th month in a row with a year-over-year sales gain, although last month’s was the smallest of those increases, the company says.

The median price paid for a Southern California home was $275,000 last month, the same as in August and down 10.9 percent from $308,500 in September 2008. It was the smallest year-over-year decline since November 2007. The region’s overall sale price has held steady on a month-to-month basis since the 7-year low of $247,000 hit in April of this year. The median price peaked at $505,000 in mid-2007.

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