Despite the obvious gradual improvements seen in housing markets across the US, the overall recovery remains extremely "fragile", according to a new report. The April Housing Scorecard notes some significant progress in the main indicators of the real estate market, but warns that there is still much to be done.
Kurt Usowski, HUD deputy assistant secretary for economic affairs, summarized the report as follows:
"The Obama Administration’s efforts to speed the housing recovery are showing continued progress as the April scorecard indicators highlight ongoing improvements throughout the housing market. The annual increase in home prices is the highest in nearly seven years and sales of existing and new homes are both up over 10 percent from one year ago. But with so many households still struggling to make ends meet, we have important work ahead."
Most worrying is the fact that sales of existing homes fell to just 410,000 in March, down from 412,500 the month before. This decline can be attributed to a significant drop in inventory of homes listed for sale across the nation, says the National Association of Realtors.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration's scorecard does reveal steady progress in other key indicators. Home prices continue to inch their way upwards, while just as crucially the number of foreclosures continues to decline, slipping to just 70,100 in April, down from 73,100 in March. Meanwhile, mortgage delinquency rates also declined, falling to 3.6% from 3.8%, according to the latest data from Lender Processing Services.
Probably the most positive sign we're seeing is that more homeowners are taking advantage of government-backed refinancing programs and low mortgage rates to get themselves back on the straight and narrow. To date, almost 1.6 million households have signed up for the Making Home Affordable Program in order to lower their monthly mortgage bills. Of these, more than 1.1 million homeowners have successfully applied for permanent loan modifications with the government's revitalized Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). Those who have been accepted on the HAMP program are now saving an average of $546 per month on their mortgage payments.