Bay Area Housing Still Grappling

Richard Duboc

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Home foreclosures continued to rise in Alameda County last month, with Realty Trac reporting a 30 percent increase in the number of default notices issued and a 19 percent increase in the number of bank-owned (foreclosed) properties.

A recent report by Clear Capital ranks the San Francisco, Oakland and Fremont markets as twelfth among the nation’s lowest-performing major housing markets. The Bay Area is even ranked above Las Vegas, which has recently garnered national attention for being one of the most adversely affected cities by the housing bubble.

In fact, the situation has gotten so bad in Vegas that an article appearing in the Las Vegas Sun in September asked, “Will the last one out please unplug the slot machines?”

According to Yahoo!, housing prices in Hayward are down 2 percent from January, with fixed mortgages on the rise across the board. U.S. Census data shows that the number of occupied housing units went down by 657 from 2000 to 2009 from 44,804 total units to 44,147. This statistic correlates with the number of houses currently in foreclosure in Hayward, which lists at 1,612.

Although it may be seen as a buyer’s market, nobody appears to be buying. is also listing an astounding 38 percent decrease in the number of houses sold in Hayward between January 2010 and January 2011.

To make matters worse, Rick Sharga, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Realty Trac, is reporting that national foreclosure numbers are, in actuality, “artificially low.”

“We also expect that within the coming months we should see the number of foreclosures begin to go up as lenders and servicers begin to get their paper work issues in order,” said Sharga in a February press release. “The lenders and servicers doing the foreclosures may simply be saturated and are taking longer and longer to get through the foreclosure process.”

That’s right—the already high number of foreclosures in California and the Bay Area might be even higher if banks could process them faster. It’s a sign of the time when mortgage creditors and county sheriffs responsible for evicting local residents are the busiest people around.

Homeowners relying on federal subsidies and housing programs have also received bad, albeit not unexpected, news when President Obama announced his 2012 budget on Monday, which includes cuts across the board, causing some to call it his “Valentine’s Day Massacre.” The Housing and Urban Developing Department will receive a $1.1 billion decrease from 2010 and the Community Development Block Grant program will be cut by $300 million.

With the national unemployment rate falling 0.4 percent last month, economic recovery may be on the horizon. However, the housing market is notorious for taking on a life of its own and may be slow to rebound. If foreclosures continue to rise, cardboard boxes and shanties may be a better investment than houses.