How will Shadow Inventory impact the San Jose housing market?

A potentially complicated, controversial topic amongst those following the housing market is how Shadow Inventory will impact the housing “recovery”.  On the web you will find almost an equal amount of articles explaining why the shadow inventory will challenge the housing recovery until 2015.  Look at another URL and you will find positive remarks on how the banks are releasing foreclosures now and how “robo signing” issues are resolving in the courts.  First and foremost we must realize there is no typical free market economics in play here and no one knows the exact impact of to-date government intervention, state and federal fall out of massive files involved in the foreclosure process, the impact or non-impact of the “jobless recovery”, or how the EURO economic fallout will impact the real estate market  for any foreseeable future.

You have probably heard the saying, “all real estate is local”.  Believe it or not, this is not simply a National Association of REALTOR® tag line.  I know, you don’t believe me.  But really, real estate is so very local you must understand the market neighborhood by neighborhood and more importantly, street by street.  Neighborhood boundaries don’t exactly follow zip code lines.  School boundaries do not follow neighborhood lines. All of those don’t follow generic San Jose reports.  To understand current conditions and/or even attempt to predict where a particular group of housing prices will go in the future, is extremely hyper local and can not be wrapped up into averages.  Speaking of averages, medians, and the like, the one statistical component that the real estate market predictions rarely include is standard deviation.  In my very humble opinion, this is where the rubber hits the road in regards to how a true real estate professional can help buyers and sellers understand the local market.  You need someone seeing homes come and go, understanding how many are distressed, how many are not, how many are positively effected by optimal commutes, high API school scores, pride of ownership, and local amenities to have a chance at predicting stabilization or appreciation of any home’s value.  A real local full-time professional can help you define the standard deviation related to any home’s value.

So with shadow inventory, I argue the information you are hearing and reading does not take into play neighborhood dynamics or more importantly the standard deviation related to the specific market of the home you might be looking to buy or sell.  Shadow inventory, simply defined, are the homes distressed not yet a part of the active real estate market.  They are the homes where the seller is not yet behind on their mortgage but soon will  be and they are the homes the lenders/investors are holding on to for various reasons and therefore have not become  a part of the active housing market.

How do we predict the impact of shadow inventory on a specific housing market? The ideal would be to identify all distressed homes and request the lenders to publish the homes within their portfolios with a projected release date to the open housing market.  Not easy to find this information.  Imagine the speculation that would come from such a report. However, we can get a general picture from looking at historical data from our very limited statistical resource tools offered by our very expensive local MLS board and see a pattern of predictions based on neighborhoods and zip codes with a sprinkling of lifestyle influences such as schools, jobs, and conveniences offered to predict the future housing depreciation or appreciation.  I am confident this idea will play out no matter what the result of the Greeks role in the European Union or who the president will be in 2013.

Two neighborhoods:

Cambrian Park, known for its high API scoring schools within the Union School District, reasonable commute to the technology hub of Mountain View and Palo Alto, and nestled in between the very desirable communities of Los Gatos and Willow Glen.  Highly desirable, highly likeable, and highly competitive when it comes to home sales.  Here is a chart indicating the year-to-date active and sold listings and the amount of distressed homes in this market both short sales and REO (foreclosures).   On average, 20% short sales and about 5% bank owned properties are actively on the market.  No definitive increasing trends and this is true even when I went back to late 2008.   It appears that REOs move fast in the Cambrian market which keeps the overall active percentage low.

(Blue-Active Pending Short Sales as % of whole, Maroon Sold Short Sales % of whole, Yellow – Active/Pending REOs as a % of whole, and Green – Sold REOs as a % of whole)

Click on the image to enlarge.

Alum Rock, known as the “East Side” of San Jose, not very well performing schools, extremely limited in jobs as well as commute opportunities to the tech hub, inconsistent pride of ownership, and one of the last neighborhood markets to see an increase during the boom years.  Crime rates are higher and shopping, dining, and entertainment are more inconvenient.  This market provided the last opportunities for lower income families to buy a home and unfortunately, many bought with no money down, many with adjustable rates, or negative amortization loan products.  Of course, these home owners where the first home owners to face trouble when the housing values began to fall.   Consistently, 50% on average of distressed homes sales occur in this neighborhood.  The highest rolling average since the bust of foreclosures and short sales.  Longest days on market, lowest average sales price, and many reasons to believe there is more to come.  If you take the simple statistic that only 7 out of 10 short sales close, this large percentage of short sales are very likely to feed the foreclosure pipeline for many months to come.  As market values come down, home owners that did not participate in “exotic” loan products see their home values drop so much that it no longer makes sense to pay on a home worth 50% less than they owe.  The snowball continues.

Click on the image to enlarge.

There is a logical component in predicting how shadow inventory will impact housing prices.  But what percentage of a local San Jose neighborhood market is at risk to shadow inventory?  If you are looking to purchase a home in Cambrian Park, with less that 20% of the homes sales being distressed sales, you can understand why prices are at less risk to go down.  There is actually more opportunity for the average home price to go up because of supply and demand.  As the market prices stabilize or go up even a small percentage, the risk of new distressed homes goes down as well.

For Alum Rock, look for a triple if not quadruple dip between now and 2015.   So many of these home owners bought with riskier loans, are most impacted by job loss, neighborhood housing values will absolutely be further damaged when the banks release any inventory they are holding simply because the distressed market is already such a large percentage of the zip code sales.   However, banks selling bulk REOs to investor could potentially stabilize the neighborhood faster but as a rental neighborhood, may not have a positive effect on appreciation.  Herein lies the standard deviation of housing statistics not discussed on the evening news.  Herein lies the truth to the statement all real estate is local.

What do you think?  Do you think rising interest rates will tip the scales and make all neighborhoods equal?  Do you think expunging shadow inventory in the current weaker zip codes like 95127 will set them up for stronger appreciation later?  Do you think the bottom will never come?  I would love to hear your comments.  Understanding how buyers and sellers see the market helps me understand what tools are best to help them in the buying or selling of their homes.  Oh, and just for the record, I like Alum Rock and believe more local involvement by city government to reduce crime and stronger neighborhood initiatives by long time residents could help turn this area around.  We need to keep this neighborhood an affordable, safe option that provides the best education as any student can obtain in Santa Clara County.

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