Foreclosures decline, sales up in county; experts still cautious

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Clark County’s housing market continued to sidestep toward a lukewarm recovery this spring and early summer, as documented by two different reports released Wednesday.

But local real estate experts say they are still reluctant to declare the market has bottomed out, despite the slight improvements. Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac reported county foreclosures were down 32.8 percent in July, compared with the same month last year. The Washington Center for Real Estate Research in Pullman reported area home sales increased 3.6 percent in the three months ending in June, compared with first-quarter sales.

“We always see an improvement for this time of year. People are always going to have to move,” said Denice Thompson-Neddo, a broker with Vancouver-based Windermere Real Estate Stellar Group.

Some in the housing industry expressed concern about the Federal Reserve’s promise this week to keep interest rates low through mid 2013. The announcement could keep potential buyers riding the fence indefinitely, said Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research.

“To my mind, it’s a signal to wait to purchase their homes; to let prices continue to fall,” Crellin said. “That’s not what I would like to hear right now.”

Despite an improvement from the first quarter to the second, however, the 6,070 Clark County home sales in the second quarter were down by more than 1,000 from the same quarter last year.

Meanwhile, few sellers in Clark County are seeing recovery in the area’s slumping home prices. The countywide median price of a house — half sold for more, half for less — was $190,400 during the second quarter. That represents an 11.1 percent decline from the median price of $214,100 in the second quarter of 2010.

Some experts said prices could continue to soften because of the county’s active foreclosure market.

RealtyTrac, which keeps a tally of default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions, reported 336 houses in some stage of foreclosure in July, down from July 2010, but higher than the previous month’s total. In June, there were only 248 Clark County houses in some stage of foreclosure.

According to RealtyTrac’s recent report, Clark County ranked No. 2 in the state in terms of the number of homes in foreclosure, with one out of every 487 homes in some stage of foreclosure. Statewide, one in every 781 houses is in foreclosure. Across the nation, one out of every 611 homes is in foreclosure.

RealtyTrac reported a 35 percent decline in foreclosures throughout the U.S. in July, which marked the 10th straight month of year-over-year decreases in foreclosures.