Lower end US homes just 10% below 2006 and outperform middle market sector

Lower priced houses in the United States have been outperforming the middle priced market and are now only 10% below their peak values of 2006, a new analysis shows.

Middle tier homes, typically selling between $120,000 and $345,000, are the worst performing segment with current price levels 24.8% below 2006 peak levels, according to a new report from real estate firm Clear Capital.

It says that this vast difference in market recovery underscores the continued challenges the majority of home owners face, despite a quicker recovery in both the bottom and top segments of the market.

Regionally, there was a small uptick in quarterly gains in both the West and Midwest, between 0.3% to 0.1%, while the Northeast and South remained unchanged over the quarter, at 0.2% and 0.8%, respectively.

These minimal changes reinforce housing’s continued moderation and suggest the initial thrust of the home buying season is starting to wane, according to Alex Villacorta, vice president of research and analytics at Clear Capital.

He pointed out that disparity still exists at the local market level. The Northeast reports the widest gap in price performance between the top and bottom performing areas with Pittsburgh seeing growth of 14.1% year and year and Providence down 14.1%.

At the national level, the data through July shows a 0.1% increase in quarterly gains, from 0.6% in June to 0.7% in July. ‘While this minor increase, a carry-over from spring’s performance, is expected as we enter the thick of summer’s peak demand cycle, it reflects the overall contraction from spring’s initial surge,’ said Villacorta.

‘Through the first half of 2015, we observed a housing recovery that is normalising after an impressive price surge from the trough of the market. After more than two years of a pretty remarkable upward swing, the housing market’s correction to the correction has given way to more normal rates of growth,’ he explained.

‘What we now know, however, is that this correctionary period has not treated all markets, nor segments within markets, the same. In the present environment, micro analysis is key. In particular, our latest data exposed a mid-tier lag. This segment is still way behind both the top and bottom of the market in terms of recovery over the last nine years,’ he pointed out.

Indeed, the analysis of the change in home prices since the summer of 2006 shows that the middle tier has lagged behind both the upper end and lower ends of the market by a surprisingly wide margin.

At 24.8% below its peak level, the middle tier is more than double that of the lower tier. Villacorta said that the lower tier was both hit and buffered by high levels of distressed activity which, in recent years, has sparked investor activity driven in large part by the accelerated demand in the rental sector. And, the top tier has benefited from a segment of the market that is more resilient to the current economic climate.

‘The middle tier’s performance is concerning as it represents the key move up buyer segment of the market. As long as this key segment is still fighting to regain an equity foothold, re-engagement back into the purchase market will continue to be on hold,’ he added.