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Home prices are overvalued and price growth is not being driven by fundamentals but by technical factors that could easily change, advised Fitch Ratings Friday. The ratings service believes national prices are 10 percent overvalued, but will likely drop by no more than 2 percent due to inflation.

Fitch Ratings Calls for Housing Price Correction

Home prices are overvalued and price growth is not being driven by fundamentals but by technical factors that could easily change, advised Fitch Ratings Friday. The ratings service believes national prices are 10 percent overvalued, but will likely drop by no more than 2 percent due to inflation. Low prevailing mortgage rates, the limited supply of existing homes for sale (either due to the few foreclosure completions or the number of underwater borrowers who cannot sell), and the anemic levels of new home construction are facilitating affordability and feeding demand. They are also offsetting weak fundamentals like unemployment, low wage growth, Fitch said in a special report. In addition, Fitch stated it believes price movement is “highly dependent on the pace of distressed sales and liquidations.” For example, states such as Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia have been able to dispose of their distressed inventory quickly and have also seen “both steeper drops and quicker stabilization,” while states with long foreclosure timelines-New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut-may see price declines. In order to determine sustainability, Fitch conducted an analysis using its Sustainable Home Price (SHP) model. The ratings agency found 22 metros out of 41 are currently “undervalued” or “sustainable,” while five were categorized as “overvalued” by 5 to 10 percent. In 2010, 23 metro areas were overvalued by 10 to 25 percent. The report highlighted hardest hit metros such as Phoenix, Atlanta, and Riverside, noting they are now beginning to recover and are currently considered “undervalued.” New York and New Jersey, though, were categorized as overvalued by 10 percent to 15 percent, hindered by their large inventory of distressed properties and long foreclosure timelines, according to Fitch. And, high unemployment could hurt Los Angeles and Union, New Jersey and lead to a roughly 10 percent decline. On a national level, Fitch said price growth “is likely to be muted or even modestly negative in the near-term as liquidation volumes increase and expand supply, particularly in the lengthy judicial states where inventory has been off the market.” Fitch warned “short-term price movements can be misleading when the impact of distressed properties has been withheld from the market.” “Many models place a high value on price momentum, which can skew long-term projections. Another factor differentiating our model from many in the market is that our projections are in real terms as opposed to nominal dollars,” said Stefan Hilts, director of Fitch Ratings.

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