The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
March 7, 2012

Housing market boom, bust, and recovery?

March 7, 2012

In recent weeks, a lot of the economic news has been cautiously optimistic, especially when it comes to unemployment. But the housing crisis is far from over. National numbers tell us that—although they might not be in free fall any longer—home sales prices remain low, many homeowners are still underwater, mortgage lenders continue to issue foreclosure notices, and big inventories of unsold homes glut the market.

Like so many economic stories, this one varies dramatically from one metro to another. The latest MetroTrends interactive map shows trends since 2000 in the House Price Index (published by the Federal Housing Finance Agency) for each of the nation’s 100 biggest metros. In all 100, prices were still lower in the fourth quarter of 2011 (the most recent data available) than when the recession officially ended. But in many metros, the House Price Index edged up slightly at the end of 2011, suggesting that markets may finally have hit bottom (click below for interactive map).

 

House Price Index

Source: Urban Institute analysis of LAUS, HPI, NUHC, OES, and LPS data

Things still look grim in metros where house prices climbed the highest during the boom years preceding the Great Recession. Take a look at Orlando, for example. Between 2000 and the fourth quarter of 2006, house prices almost doubled. Then prices plummeted, falling to 7 percent below their 2000 levels. Although prices rose throughout the second half of 2011, the gains were small. Price trends in the Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Sacramento metros (to name just a few) look just as bad.

Source: Urban Institute analysis of HPI (Home Price Index) data

In contrast, house prices in the Oklahoma City metro rose much more modestly between 2000 and 2006 (only about 20 percent). The subsequent decline was even more modest. At its lowest (in the third quarter of 2011), Oklahoma City’s House Price Index was still 7 percent higher than in 2000, and the last quarter of 2011 showed a small increase. Other metros with similar trajectories include Denver, Pittsburgh, and Houston.

In metros like Orlando, weak housing market conditions seem likely to act as a serious brake on the painfully slow recovery, while metros like Oklahoma City have an easier road ahead of them. You can use our interactive map to explore these trends for your metro, or to make comparisons of your own.

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Comments

There's definitely a correlation between areas with a healthy real estate and that area's economic recovery. It will take time before all the major cities are caught up.