One month ago we discussed why according to the recent data, the "Housing Market Headed For "Broadest Slowdown In Years." Fast forward to today, when we received the latest confirmation that the US housing market appears to have recently hit a downward inflection point: according to the just released July 2018 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report released by ATTOM Data Solutions, foreclosure starts in July increased by 1% from a year ago — the first year-over-year increase following 36 consecutive months of decreases.
Foreclosures rose from a year ago in 96 of the 219 metropolitan statistical areas, or 44% of the markets analyzed in the report; 33 of those areas posted their third straight monthly increase. A total of 30,187 U.S. properties started the foreclosure process for the first time in July, up 1 percent from the previous month and while the increase was less than 1% from a year ago, it marked the first annual increase in exactly 3 years.
21 states posted a year-over-year increase in foreclosure starts in July, including Florida (up 35 percent); California (up 3 percent); Texas (up 7 percent); Illinois (up 7 percent); and Ohio (up 2 percent).
Metro areas posting year-over-year increases in foreclosure starts in July included Los Angeles, California (up 20 percent); Houston, Texas (up 76 percent); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (up 10 percent); Miami, Florida (up 29 percent); and San Francisco, California (up 10 percent).
"The increase in foreclosure starts is not just a one-month anomaly in many local markets given that July represented the third consecutive month with a year-over-year increase in 33 metro areas, including Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Detroit, San Diego and Austin," said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president with ATTOM Data Solutions.
"Gradually loosening lending standards over the past few years have introduced a modicum of risk back into the housing market, and that additional risk is resulting in rising foreclosure starts in a diverse set of markets across the country. Most susceptible to rising foreclosure starts are affordability-challenged markets where homebuyers are more financially stretched and markets with some type of trigger event such as a natural disaster or large-scale layoffs."
The data comes shortly after a separate report found that there has been a plunge of sales in ultra-luxury real estate in New York City, where apartments that cost $5 million or more have seen their sale plunge more than 31% in the first 6 months of the year.
The surprising reversal in the US housing sector comes at a time when the US economy is reportedly firing on all four cylinders, with the stock market at all time highs and not long after the Department of Commerce revised income and spending data to "discover" that US households had actually saved twice as much as previously expected. Which begs the question: is the rise in interest rates a sufficiently adverse development to offset all the other favorable trends in the economy, or is something more sinister - and unknown - taking place in the US economy.
As a reminder it is housing - and not financial markets or stocks - that has traditionally been the most relevant, and aspirational, asset for the US middle class and as such is the best indicator of economic prosperity (or lack thereof) for a majority of the US population. And recent trends are anything but optimistic.