The latest figures from Standard & Poor’s Case-Schiller Index show that the double-dip in the housing market many economists feared is now a reality. In other words, according to sources, housing market prices have taken another nosedive and home values are now near the same level they were in mid-2002.
How much of a dip is this second downward spike? Reports indicate that:
- The first quarter of 2011 saw a 4.2 percent decline in home prices.
- In the final quarter of 2010, prices dropped 3.6 percent.
- Home prices are currently 5.1 percent lower than they were this time last year and, according to Standard & Poor’s, have reached a new low even for the recession.
If all this sounds like bad news, the kicker is that the cycle of foreclosures and lowered home values seems unlikely to end any time soon.
Gloomy Outlook for the Housing Market
Consider these troublesome figures.
- About 1.9 million homes in the U.S. are currently in some stage of foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac, a company that keeps track of such things.
- Housing prices fall when supply is greater than demand (that is, when there are more homes available than people looking to buy).
- Right now, supply is skyrocketing: empty foreclosure properties are common sights in many states, and apparently nearly two million more are about to follow.
- Unfortunately, demand is also fairly low: many Americans are still skittish about their employment situation and unwilling to take on the burden of a mortgage. Further, many banks have tightened lending standards, making mortgage loans harder to come by even for those interested in buying.
- On top of all this, sources note that as many as 28 percent of U.S. homes are currently underwater, meaning that the owner owes more on the mortgage than the home’s current value. Underwater homeowners may find themselves in foreclosure down the line, whether by strategically defaulting or by being unable to make payments.
Can Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Help?
In the past, Chapter 13 bankruptcy has often been heralded as a way to stave off or prevent foreclosure for some filers. The question of whether Chapter 13 could help some of the millions of Americans who might have mortgage foreclosure in their future is a complex one.
Chapter 13 may work for some people facing foreclosure, but only if those people have sufficient income to make regular payments according to the repayment plan. In other words, if you’re in danger of losing your home because you lost your job, Chapter 13 may not do the trick.
One interesting note, though, is that some sources have reported bankruptcy judges ruling for mortgage cram-downs in Chapter 13 cases, despite laws that prohibit such rulings.