According to the most recent Obama administration housing scorecard, there have been some notable changes in the real estate industry during the past few months.
The report found that home prices and sales nationwide remain weak, while inventory levels and foreclosures improved.
"While we should be encouraged by the positive trends on inventories and foreclosure starts, the mixed overall outlook means that we must remain diligent to improve conditions in the nation's housing market," said Department of Housing and Urban Development assistant secretary Raphael Bostic. "Responsible homeowners shouldn’t have to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom to get some relief."
Specifically, the report noted that the nation's housing inventory thinned to 2.4 million during the fourth quarter of 2011 from 3.2 million in the second quarter. As a result of fewer properties in the inventory, home prices reached an average of $138,500 in November 2011 from $140,300 the previous month.
As home prices become more affordable, the report showed that the number of existing home sales in December increased to 384,200 from 370,800 at the end of 2010.
Additionally, the scorecard noted there were fewer foreclosures during the year, a finding that was recently backed up by a foreclosure report from CoreLogic.
According to the real estate data firm, 830,000 foreclosures were completed during 2011. Although this is still an elevated number, it is 24 percent lower than the 1.1 million completed in 2010. Meanwhile, it was also indicated that foreclosure in the month of December recorded an annual decline from 67,000 in 2010 to 55,000 in 2010.
However, according to CoreLogic chief economist Mark Fleming, the reported dip in the foreclosure rate may have been skewed.
"While foreclosure filings are being curtailed by a variety of judicial and regulatory constraints, mortgage servicers are completing REO sales faster than they are completing foreclosures," said Fleming. "This is the first time in a year that REO sales have outpaced completed foreclosures, and part of the reason for the decrease in the foreclosure inventory."
Meanwhile, the report showed that the foreclosures also declined, thinning 8.4 percent at year's end. However, a revamp in the foreclosure process in 2011 could cause a surge in distressed properties entering the inventory, as 1.4 million homes are currently in some stage of the foreclosure process.
While reports indicate that the country's housing market remains fragile, the National Association of Home Builders argues that on a local level there are some markets that have managed to outperform nationwide averages.
The industry group's Improving Market Index, added 29 new local markets to its list in February, bringing the total number of entries to 98.
"While many of the markets on the February IMI are far from fully recovered, the index points out where employment, home prices and housing production are no longer retreating and have held above their lowest recession troughs for six months or more," said NAHB chief economist David Crowe. "This is a sign that a large cross section of the country is starting to turn the corner as local economic conditions stabilize."
Some notable additions to the index include, Miami, Boston, Detroit, Kansas City, Portland, Memphis and Salt Lake City.
However, the report wasn't entirely positive, as there were a number of markets that dropped from the list in February. These metro areas include San Jose, Washington, D.C. and New Orleans.