Detroit area home sales rise 8.2 percent

Posted on October 18, 2011

Metro Detroit home sales rose 8.2 percent and the median sales price climbed 10 percent in September, the third straight month sales increased from the same time last year, according to a report released Monday.

The four-county region seemed to experience healthy sales growth, with nonforeclosure sales up 23.3 percent in Metro Detroit, while sales of foreclosed properties dropped 11 percent, reported Realcomp II Ltd., a Farmington Hills multiple listing service.

The 10 percent gain in the median home price to $74,900 was all generated by nonforeclosed homes and condominiums; the price of foreclosed homes remained the same at $110,000 from the same period a year ago.

But it is “still too early” to say that Metro Detroit’s residential real estate market has rebounded, said Karen Kage, chief executive of Realcomp II.

“The number of pending sales continues to show an increase over the previous year, which is an indication of an increase in closed sales in the next few months,” Kage said in an email.

Foreclosures are down in Livingston, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties because the supply of foreclosed property is down, she said.

Nationally, sales of existing homes in August — the last month for which figures are available — reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million.

A housing price recovery is being fueled in part by cash buyers — those who don’t require financing to purchase a home, said Timothy Gilson, a real estate agent for RE/MAX Vision in Huntington Woods, in an email.

Cash buyers accounted for 45.3 percent of all home sales in September, according to Realcomp.

“It is an amazing time to buy or buy up in Michigan,” Gilson said.

But it is difficult to say how long the trend can be sustained because of a glut of foreclosed homes that have been held off of the market, he said.

An April ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals halted the foreclosure of 400 properties held by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development when the court decided a group of lenders that used the services of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc. violated the state’s foreclosure process.

Lenders have had to begin new foreclosure procedures on the HUD properties. The ruling may have put a damper on MERS proceedings against Michigan homeowners, since state law requires a foreclosing party to own the legal title to the debt, which MERS did not.

When lenders decide to foreclose again on properties or put more of them on the market, the inventory of homes and condominiums available for sale will increase and possibly cause prices to stabilize or drop, Gilson said.

RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif., foreclosure tracking company, said last week there are signs that the yearlong decline in foreclosures nationwide and in Metro Detroit is about to end, which might depress overall home sales in the future.

Residential foreclosure filings in Metro Detroit declined in September from a year ago for the 11th consecutive month, RealtyTrac reported last week, but there was a nearly 30 percent rise in foreclosure filings in the region from August to September.

“There is evidence that this temporary downward trend is about to change direction, with foreclosure activity slowly beginning to ramp back up,” said James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, in a statement last week.

In August, RealtyTrac noted that many Michigan homeowners would be vulnerable to a new wave of foreclosures.

More than half, or 59 percent, of mortgage holders in the state owe more on their mortgage loans than the property is currently worth, the highest rate among all the states, RealtyTrac said then.

By Louis Aguilar, The Detroit News