Home prices are rising, more underwater home owners are regaining equity, and home sales are on the rise, according to the Obama Housing Scorecard, released each month by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The August report showed that home prices continue to make strong gains while the number of underwater home owners has dropped by 42 percent since the beginning of 2012. The number of home owners who owe more on their mortgage than it is currently worth has dropped from 12.1 million to 7.1 million as of the second quarter of 2013. Home sales—for existing homes and new homes—continue to rebound as well.
However, the report also strikes a cautious note, underscoring the fact that housing market hasn’t returned to normal quite yet.
“As we regain stability in our housing markets, it is important to remember that we still have a long way to go in making sure that our housing finance system is strong for future generations,” says Kurt Usowski, HUD deputy assistant secretary for economic affairs.
The report notes that more than 1.7 million home owner assistance actions have taken place through the administration’s Making Home Affordable Program, including loan modifications and other foreclosure-mitigation efforts. But the administration continues to press mortgage servicers to improve their processes in helping struggling home owners, such as through better identification of home owners who could be helped through the program as well as improving upon the timeliness, accuracy, and detail of servicers communications with home owners.
“While there is significant progress, there is still more improvement needed in [mortgage] servicer behavior,” says Tim Massad, Treasury assistant secretary for financial stability. “And while the housing market has recovered substantially, there are still home owners struggling to avoid foreclosure and it is vital that we continue to try to help them.”