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Big cities around the country are finally seeing the bottom for their dropping house prices, according to Zillow, Inc. The only problem is that it isn’t happening in two of our big cities –

Home prices are still dropping in Chicago/photo by Frank Gruber

Chicago and Cleveland.

Zillow, a real estate forecaster, says it doesn’t expect home prices in either of those two places to bottom out in 2012. That’s even though home prices nationally rose 0.5 percent, according to the Zillow Home Value Index.

Nationally, Zillow says home prices remain 25 percent below their levels in 2007. It doesn’t  expect much of an increase in prices nationally this year. You can read a Bloomberg story about the Zillow forecast here. 

Chicago and Cleveland are among 11 cities that are still seeing home prices fall. Others are San Francisco, Charlotte, Seattle and Atlanta. Places where home prices are rising include Phoenix and Miami, according to Zillow.

Home values are one of the things that are prompting people to adjust their expectations about the future. Read our Changing Gears Tumblr on Changing Expectations.

Chicago suburbs, by flikr user Scorpions and Centaurs

New numbers on house prices in the U.S. are out today, and they’re not great. Prices are still falling in most of the 20 cities included in the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indeces. Detroit was one of only three cities where prices increased from January 2011 to January 2012. The other two were Denver and Phoenix.

Prices in Chicago, Cleveland and Minneapolis continue to fall. Chicago is down 36 percent compared to its peak in 2006. Cleveland is down 28 percent. Minneapolis is down 35 percent.

Detroit’s numbers may have been a bit brighter over the past year, compared to other Midwest cities in the index, but house prices in Detroit are still far below all other cities in the index. Detroit’s house prices have dropped 46 percent since the peak.

The average decline for the index as a whole is 34 percent.

What do you see where you live? Are prices bottoming out?


House lock has prevented some homeowners from moving for better jobs, but the problem isn’t affecting the nation’s overall unemployment rate in a substantial way.

That’s the conclusion of a study authored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, which found scant evidence of a link between geographic immobility and a national unemployment rate that reached 9.2 percent in June. The study was released Wednesday.

Using census data, the economists compared state-to-state migration rates among both homeowners and renters and found neither group had veered from historical recession rates. “We find that homeowner and renter migration rates fell roughly in tandem,” Fed vice president and advisor Daniel Aaronson wrote. “The difference is economically small.”

Some observers had believed that house lock, the economic malady in which homeowners are reluctant or unable to sell their homes because of diminished values, had kept some workers from relocating for new jobs and contributed to the unemployment rate.

But Aaronson wrote that differences in movement were nearly identical across markets in a variety of economic conditions. In the data unearthed in the Survey of Income and Program Participation, markets battered by the recession showed the same migration patterns as those that faced less tumult.

“There is little empirical evidence that house lock has been an important driver of the recent high unemployment rate,” he said.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Illinois learns from Israel. In a collaborative effort to learn more about green technology, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is traveling to Israel this week for what his staff has called “an educational mission.” Our partner station WBEZ says the governor will visit a company that develops automotive battery chargers and sign a water pact that encourages Illinois and Israel to work jointly on clean-water issues.

2. Median income falls in Michigan. Numbers released from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show the median income for Michigan households plunged by more than $9,000 over the past decade, according to partner station Michigan Radio. Adjusted for inflation, the median income in 2000 was $54,651. By 2009, the amount had fallen to $45,255.

3. Home sales inch upward. Existing home sales rose 1 percent across the Midwest in June, according to data released by the National Association of Realtors on Wednesday. Sales reached 1.04 million, but remain 14 percent below June 2010 levels. The median Midwest price fell to $147,700, down 5.3 percent, year over year.


Eventually, the Wisconsin Supreme Court may have the final say over a law that restricts the collective bargaining of public employees. For now, the controversial legislation has been struck down.

A Dane County judge ruled Thursday that Republican lawmakers violated the state’s open meetings act when they passed the bill on March 9. In her 33-page ruling, Judge Maryann Sumi wrote, “transparency in government is most important when the stakes are high.”

Republicans should try to pass the legislation again, opines the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, this time with a “more reasonable approach.” The ruling is a big boost to Wisconsin Democrats and their efforts to recall Gov. Scott Walker, says the Washington Post.

Elsewhere in the Midwest today:

Amid the backdrop of declining population, Detroit Public Schools have altered their consolidation plan after receiving community input. Meanwhile, towns throughout Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are struggling to survive, writes the Associated Press.

Also in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign a $46 billion state budget, a move that comes without the usual high-profile wrangling, reports our partner station Michigan Radio. In Ohio, lawmakers see township consolidation as one way money could be saved in the future, Ideastream reports.

WBEZ says that lobbyists for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are already in Springfield representing his interests in the state capitol. The new mayor has limited time for action – the legislature adjourns Tuesday. Across Illinois, unemployment rates are dropping in metro areas, says the Chicago Tribune.

The number of homes in the foreclosure process declined nationally during the first quarter of 2011, but they still account for 28 percent of all sales. In Ohio, foreclosed properties sold for an average of $75,397, says the Akron Beacon Journal.


For sale signs have become a common stable of front lawns in the Great Recession. Photo by Sean Dreilinger via Flickr.

Home sales prices have been one of the most watched economic indicators during the Great Recession. So when a new set of numbers came out today, reporters nationwide jumped on the data. Changing Gears noticed a little line in the press release that read “Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Phoenix, Portland (OR) and Washington D.C. saw improvements in their annual rates of return in February versus January; New York was unchanged.”

 

 

Improved? In Cleveland and Detroit? Really?

After reading headlines all day about how Cleveland prices are still below what they were in 2000, and Detroit is as much as 30 percent below 2000 home sale prices, this one little word – improved – prompted us to call Standard & Poor’s ourselves. We’re glad we did.

David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P said all that means is that between February of 2011 and February of 2010, things improved more than they did between January of this year compared to January of last year. Overall, he said, things are still only inching up.

Blitzer said it’s hard to get a clear picture of what a normal year would look like, let alone how much we might be improving. He said it looks like home prices “have been creeping up a little bit” but not advancing strongly.

“I don’t think the news is predominantly good at all,” he said. “And if you dig in you’ll find more negatives than positives.

Blitzer said if there is any good news in the latest home sales prices, it’s that things “could be a whole lot worse.”

Starting in 2003, home sales prices shot up until around 2006, only to come crashing back down in the spring of 2009. Since then, prices have been bouncing around. Some things, like the New Home Buyers Tax Credit have caused slight increases, while at other times the prices have dipped. Blitzer said it’s also important to keep in mind that different cities hit their bottom at different times. Most cities bottomed out around the spring of 2009, but Detroit hit its lowest home prices this past January.

I figured as long as I had him on the phone, I could ask him a whole host of other questions, like why we use 2000 as the year to compare home sale prices to and if this means it’s a good time to buy a house. You can find out the answers to those questions, and listen to the full interview below.