Today’s Wall Street Journal gives us a glimmer of hope as far as existing home inventory is concerned. According to figures compiled by Zip Realty, inventory in eighteen metropolitan areas (including Washington and Baltimore) declined in November.
Washington had a significant 4% decline in housing inventory. Since its the heat from rising Washington prices that have made Baltimore’s cauldron boil over the last few years, this figure is at least as important as the fact that Baltimore’s inventory also declined by a smaller — but still larger than average — 2.6%. This is the second month in a row that monthly inventory figures have declined. While this is a normal trend for this time of year, its nice to know that there is SOMETHING about the current market that is returning to NORMAL.
Unfortunately, today’s Baltimore Sun contained information that is more worrying. The story has to do with a dispute between RealtyTrak and local auctioneers over the amount of increase in foreclosure auctions in the Baltimore marketplace. Local auctioneers (probably the more accurate source of information, in my opinion) estimate that foreclosure auctions have increased on the order of 48% in 2007 over 2006. RealtyTrak came up with the amazing figure of 344% increase for the same period.
As someone who routinely peruses the auction page of the Sun, I do not believe that the number of auction ads have increased by that order of magnitude. But 48% is still ominous, dangerous, and something that we hope does not continue as we head into the spring.