District of Columbia Housing Monitor
Spring 2009

A quarterly report by NeighborhoodInfo DC tracking housing conditions in Washington, D.C. The District of Columbia Housing Monitor is made possible by funding from Fannie Mae.

This issue's special focus section examines the incidence of home foreclosures in the city's wards and neighborhoods.

Key findings in this issue (click to jump to section):


Quarterly Home Sales

Sales volume for the end of 2008 was almost half the volume five years earlier, following the slump in the housing market that started in late 2007. Sales prices of single-family homes have fallen sharply over the past year, but condominium prices dropped only slightly.

NeighborhoodInfo DC analysis of real property data from the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue (figure 1 and table 1 [PDF]) shows that there were 588 sales of single-family homes in the fourth quarter of 2008, up 11 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 (528 sales), but down 50 percent from the fourth quarter of 2003 (1,190 sales) and 58 percent lower than the fourth quarter of 1998 (1,404 sales).

Sales of condominium units have also slowed. There were 432 condominiums sold in the fourth quarter of 2008, down 41 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 (737 sales) and 49 percent from the fourth quarter of 2003 (845 sales). Nonetheless, the total volume of condominium sales remained on par with ten years earlier (533 units sold in the fourth quarter of 1998). This is likely explained by the increase in the supply of condominium units over the past decade, which was a result of both the construction of many new condominium properties in the city and the conversion of some rental apartment buildings to condominium ownership. The larger supply of condominium units, compared with ten years earlier, has offset much of the market slowdown.

In inflation-adjusted, 2008 dollars, the median price of a single family home fell 21 percent over the year, from $478,000 in the fourth quarter of 2007 to $414,000 in the fourth quarter of 2008. The median sales price was only 14 percent higher than five years earlier, however, and 141 percent higher than in the fourth quarter of 1998.

Condominium prices were "stickier," declining only 5 percent since the fourth quarter of 2007. The median price of a condominium unit was $357,000 in the fourth quarter of 2008, which remained higher than prices five and ten years earlier, when adjusted for inflation.

The data in figure 1 suggest that the single-family and condominium markets reached parity at the end of 2008 - with roughly the same sales volume and prices in both parts of the housing market.

Figure 1. Single-Family Home and Condominium Quarter-to-Quarter Sales Trends, 1998 Q4 - 2008 Q4
Washington, D.C.
Figure 1a
Figure 1b

For additional sales data, see Table 1. Home Sales by Ward, Washington, D.C., 1998 - 2008 Q4 (PDF)

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Quarterly Real Estate Listings

Real estate listing data confirm the housing market slowdown, with larger numbers of listing per sale and increases of time on the market across all types of housing.

Data from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. (MRIS), indicate that the number of listings per sale of single-family, condominium, and cooperative housing units has reached their highest levels since the first quarter of 1997 (table 2 [PDF]). In the first quarter of 2009, there were 10.8 listings for every single-family home sold, almost ten times the number of listings in the first quarter of 2005. The only higher first quarter number for the past twelve years was 12.4 listings per sale in 1997.

The trend was similar for condominium and cooperative housing. In the first quarter of 2009, there were 12.6 listings for every housing unit sold, up from 1.6 listings per sale in the first quarter of 2005. As with single-family homes, this was the highest level since the first quarter of 1997 (14.3 listings per sale).

The MRIS data also indicate that time spent on the market has increased dramatically. Over half of all homes (single-family, condominium, and cooperatives) spent 60 days or more on the market before being sold in the first quarter of 2009, compared with 22.7 percent of all sales in the first quarter of 2005. About 42.4 percent of homes sold spent 90 days or more on the market in the first quarter of 2009, while about one third spent 120 days or more on the market, compared with only 8.7 percent four years earlier.

Table 2. Real Estate Listing Trends by Housing Type, Washington, D.C., 1997 Q1 - 2009 Q1 (PDF)

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Ward-Level Market Trends

Single-family home prices fell in all wards in the city during 2008, except for Ward 2. The steepest declines were in Wards 4 and 5. Condominium prices also fell in almost every ward, except Ward 5.

The market slowdown has brought home prices down in seven out of the eight wards in the city (figure 2 and table 1 [PDF]). The steepest declines were in Ward 4, where the median inflation-adjusted price of a single-family home fell 26 percent between the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008, and in Ward 5, where prices declined 25 percent. The median price of a single-family home in Ward 8 fell 19 percent over the year, and while prices in Wards 6 and 7 declined 15 percent each. Even prices in one of the most expensive parts of the city, Ward 3, were slumping at the end of 2008, falling 5.4 percent over the year.

The only exception to these downward trends was in the highest-priced area of the city, Ward 2. Prices in Ward 2 had fallen from 2006 through 2007, but actually started to rebound in 2008. Between the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008, the median price of a single family home in Ward 2 rose 14 percent, reaching $1,062,000 by the end of 2008.

Trends for condominium prices were negative in every ward except Ward 5 over the past year (table 1 [PDF]). The median inflation-adjusted condominium price fell 14 percent between the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008 in Wards 2 and 8, while the dropped 13 percent in Wards 1 and 7. But, the median price of a condominium rose 7 percent in Ward 5 over this same period, reaching $268,000 by the fourth quarter of 2008.

Despite the recent downward trend in prices, price growth in all wards remained positive over the past five and ten years for both single-family homes and condominiums.

Figure 2. Single-Family Home Price Trends by Ward, 1999 Q1 - 2008 Q4 (Quarterly)
Washington, D.C.
Figure 2

Click here to open a printable version of figure 2 in PDF.

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Special Section: Foreclosures

In Washington, D.C., foreclosure is a non-judicial process. A notice of foreclosure sale must be sent to the homeowner and to the D.C. Recorder of Deeds.

NeighborhoodInfo DC has been using data from D.C. government administrative records to track the incidence and concentration of the foreclosure problem in city's wards and neighborhoods. The most recent data that we have analyzed show that the national foreclosure crisis has not spared households in the District of Columbia. Although the intensity of the foreclosure problem is not as severe as in other parts of the region, the nation's capital has seen a marked and steady increase in foreclosures since the beginning of the housing market downturn.

A foreclosure is a legal proceeding that ends an owner's rights to a property that was used to secure a mortgage loan. The foreclosure process is initiated by the mortgage lender, or someone legally authorized to act on the lender's behalf, when an owner falls behind on mortgage payments and the lender determines that there is no other recourse for recovering the mortgage debt. The steps in carrying out a foreclosure, and the specific options for the owner to avoid foreclosure, are largely determined by local laws and regulations that govern the process.

In the District of Columbia, foreclosure is a non-judicial process, which means that foreclosure is usually accomplished without use of the courts or without any judicial review or oversight. In the event of a mortgage delinquency, normally the lender or loan servicer will make several attempts to reach the borrower requesting that the overdue payments be made. If the loan continues to remain past due, then the lender or servicer may begin a foreclosure process to sell the property and attempt to recover unpaid loan amounts and other costs. Most lenders or servicers will wait until a borrower is 90 days late or more on mortgage payments before initiating foreclosure proceedings. In the District of Columbia, however, there does not seem to be any legal restriction on when the foreclosure process can be started against a delinquent borrower.

To initiate a foreclosure against a homeowner, the lender, or the lender's agent, must send a notice of foreclosure sale, by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the property owner at the owner's last known address. A copy of this notice must also be sent to the D.C. Recorder of Deeds. The notice of foreclosure sale must include the following information:

The foreclosure sale may not take place less than 30 days after the notice has been received by the Recorder of Deeds.

In the event that a notice of foreclosure sale has been issued against a District of Columbia property owner, there are several outcomes that can take place:

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Tracking Foreclosures

As described above, there are several steps in the foreclosure process in the District of Columbia. Through two sources of city administrative records, NeighborhoodInfo DC has developed the ability to track several of the key steps in the process and report on the incidence and trends in foreclosure activity in the city. The data sources we are using to do this are:

Using these data, we have created several indicators to demarcate steps in the foreclosure process:

These data are presented in the remainder of this section.

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Foreclosure notices have been steadily increasing since 2006.

According to records of foreclosure notices filed with the D.C. Recorder of Deeds (ROD), the number of residential properties that were issued a foreclosure notice in the first quarter of 2009 was the highest level for all first quarters in the past 10 years (table 3). ROD recorded that 911 single-family homes were issued one or more foreclosure notices in the first quarter of 2009, almost four times the number in the first quarter of 2006. An additional 255 condominium units were issued foreclosure notices in the first quarter of 2009, more than five times the number in the first quarter of 2006, and 178 multifamily residential properties (cooperatives or rental apartment buildings) were issued foreclosure notices in the first quarter of 2009, over seven times the number in the first quarter of 2006. (Almost all of the multifamily properties with a foreclosure notice were rental apartment buildings.)

Table 3. Residential Properties Issued a Notice of Foreclosure Sale, 1999 Q1 - 2009 Q1
Washington, D.C.
Properties Issued a Notice of Foreclosure Sale
Single-family
homes
Condominium
units
Multifamily
(Coops/Rental)
1999 Q1 566 56 125
2000 Q1 531 52 113
2001 Q1 443 45 100
2002 Q1 485 54 103
2003 Q1 455 53 69
2004 Q1 408 36 69
2005 Q1 265 36 35
2006 Q1 229 49 24
2007 Q1 368 74 68
2008 Q1 597 134 107
2009 Q1 911 255 178

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The number of single family homes and condominiums in foreclosure has reached the highest level in the past eight years.

As a result of the increase in foreclosures filed against District of Columbia property owners, the number of properties in the foreclosure process is growing (figure 3). As of the first quarter of 2009, 2,116 single-family homes and condominium units were in foreclosure, the highest number since the fourth quarter of 2000. Between 2001 and 2006 the number of homes in foreclosure fell by half, from 2,141 to 1,052, but the inventory of homes in foreclosure has grown steadily since the start of 2006.

Unlike at the end of 2000, however, when new foreclosure starts were declining, the number of homeowners entering the foreclosure process for the first time has been increasing every quarter since 2006. In the first quarter of 2006, there were 160 new foreclosure starts, the lowest level this decade. Since then, however, the number has increased steadily, reaching 672 new starts in the first quarter of 2009. The growth in foreclosure starts indicates that the foreclosure problem in the District of Columbia will likely continue to get worse before it gets better.

Foreclosure sales have also increased over this period. Between 2003 and late 2006, there were virtually no foreclosure sales in the city. Since early 2007, the number has risen to 169 in 2009 Q1. Foreclosures avoided and distressed sales have also increased during this period.

Figure 3. Residential Foreclosure Trends, 1999 Q1 - 2009 Q1 (Quarterly)
Washington, D.C.
Figure 3

Click here to open a printable version of figure 3 in PDF.

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Compared to four or five years ago, properties in the foreclosure process today are much more likely to end up in a foreclosure sale.

The share of properties reaching foreclosure completion (foreclosure sale) is increasing exponentially (figure 4). In 2003, only 3 percent of the single-family homes and condominium units in foreclosure at the beginning of the year reached a foreclosure sale by year's end. In 2008, however, this rate had risen to 38 percent. While not as high as the 45 percent in 1999, the foreclosure completion rate could go even higher if home prices continue to fall and if the economy does not quickly improve.

Figure 4. Annual Foreclosure Completion Rates for Single-Family Homes and Condominiums, 1999 - 2008
Washington, D.C.
Figure 4

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The time to reach foreclosure sale has accelerated in recent years.

The time for homes to go through the foreclosure process in D.C. is getting shorter. Table 4 shows the average number of days to go from the first foreclosure notice to a completed foreclosure sale. For single-family homes and condominiums that started the foreclosure process in 2003, the average time to a foreclosure sale was about 19 months (591 days). The time to foreclosure sale was slightly higher for single-family homes (603 days) than for condominiums (322 days).

Since then, the average time to a foreclosure sale has been steadily decreasing. By 2007, the average time to a foreclosure sale was under 1 year (240 days), and for properties starting the process in 2008 Q1, only 190 days. As before, the time to foreclosure sale was much faster for condominium units than for single-family homes.

Table 4. Time from First Notice to Foreclosure Sale, 1999 - 2008 Q1
Washington, D.C.
Foreclosure Start
Properties Going to
Foreclosure Sale
Average Time to Foreclosure Sale (Days)
 Total Single-family
homes
Condominium
units
1999 673 356 357 192
2000 508 295 295 300
2001 324 265 265 322
2002 144 337 328 989
2003 70 591 603 322
2004 106 456 462 367
2005 75 371 359 454
2006 141 292 295 175
2007 430 240 243 186
2008 Q1 142 190 195 96

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Foreclosure activity is not uniformly distributed throughout the city. Wards and neighborhoods with lower property values tend to have higher rates of foreclosure starts and sales.

Note: To allow comparison between wards and neighborhood clusters, which have different numbers of housing units, Figure 5 and table 5 (PDF) compare the rates of foreclosure starts, completions, and properties in foreclosure per 1,000 existing single-family homes and condominium units.

Wards 7 and 8, which have the lowest home prices in the city, had the highest rates of properties in foreclosure and new foreclosure starts in 2008. In Ward 7, there were 23 single-family homes and condominium units in foreclosure per 1,000 properties in 2008, and 27 new foreclosure starts per 1,000 properties. In Ward 8, the rates were 22 per 1,000 in foreclosure and 28 per 1,000 foreclosure starts. Ward 5, which is in the middle of the city's price distribution, had the highest rate of foreclosure sales, however, with 10 foreclosure completions per 1,000 existing properties. Ward 4, which is likewise moderately-priced, also had relatively high levels of foreclosure activity.

Wards 1 and 6 had moderate levels of foreclosure activity. The lowest levels of foreclosure activity in 2008 were in the city's two highest priced areas, Wards 2 and 3.

Figure 5. Foreclosure Inventory, Starts, and Sales by Ward for
Single-Family Homes and Condominiums, 2008
Washington, D.C.
Figure 5

For foreclosure indicators for all wards and neighborhood clusters, see Table 5. Residential Foreclosures by Ward and Neighborhood Cluster, Washington, D.C., 2008 (PDF)

**Since the release of this issue the data has been updated and the table revised. You can find new tables here: Table 5. Residential Foreclosures by Ward and Neighborhood Cluster, Washington, D.C., 2008 (PDF) (REVISED)**

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The three neighborhood clusters with the highest rate of new foreclosure starts were among the lowest-priced areas in the city.

Figure 6 compares new foreclosure starts (for single-family homes and condominiums) against median sales prices (of single-family homes) for neighborhood clusters. Each symbol on the chart represents a neighborhood cluster. (The District of Columbia is divided into 39 neighborhood clusters, which are groupings of 3 to 5 neighborhoods used for local planning purposes.) The correlation between foreclosure starts and sales prices is very high. Median sales prices explain about 75 percent of the variation in foreclosure start rates.

The three clusters with the highest rate of foreclosure starts are also at the bottom of the price distribution: Cluster 28 in Ward 8 (Historic Anacostia; 42.5 foreclosure starts per 1,000 existing units; median home sales price of $246,000); Cluster 31 in Ward 7 (Deanwood/Burrville; 41.4 foreclosure starts per 1,000 existing units; median home sales price of $255,000); and Cluster 23 in Ward 5 (Ivy City/Trinidad/Arboretum; 34.9 foreclosure starts per 1,000 existing units; median home sales price of $260,000).

Figure 6 adds further confirmation to the relationship between home prices and foreclosure activity. There are two possible explanations for this relationship. One is that homeowners in lower-priced neighborhoods may be more likely to be "underwater" on their mortgage loans, meaning that they owe more on their mortgage than their home is currently worth. Past research has shown that being underwater is a strong predictor of foreclosures. A second, not necessarily competing, explanation is that this is an income effect, that is, persons owning homes in lower-priced neighborhoods have lower incomes, and are therefore more likely to have trouble repaying their mortgage. Furthermore, lower-income borrowers were more likely to take out subprime home purchase or refinance loans, which constitute the largest share of loans in foreclosure nationally.

Without further research, it is not possible to fully explain the reasons for the higher foreclosure rates in these neighborhoods. Nonetheless, the data provide a means of targeting resources to areas where the need for intervention is greatest.

Figure 6. Foreclosure Starts vs. Median Sales Price by Neighborhood Cluster, 2008
Single-Family Homes and Condominium Units
Washington, D.C.
Figure 6

For foreclosure indicators for all wards and neighborhood clusters, see Table 5. Residential Foreclosures by Ward and Neighborhood Cluster, Washington, D.C., 2008 (PDF)

**Since the release of this issue the data has been updated and the table revised. You can find new tables here: Table 5. Residential Foreclosures by Ward and Neighborhood Cluster, Washington, D.C., 2008 (PDF) (REVISED)**

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Foreclosure is not only a problem that affects homeowners. Renters occupy many homes and condominiums in the District of Columbia, and multifamily rental properties are entering foreclosure at increasing rates.

NeighborhoodInfo DC estimates from the D.C. real property data indicate that approximately 14 percent of the 95,100 single-family homes and 45 percent of the 46,100 condominium units in Washington, D.C., were renter occupied in 2008.1 Many of these renter-occupied units were among those properties that have received foreclosure notices. In 2008, 16.3 per 1,000 renter-occupied single-family homes and condominiums received a notice of foreclosure sale, up from only 5.5 in 2005 (figure 7).

Furthermore, multifamily rental properties are also entering foreclosure at increasing rates. The rates were higher for small multifamily rental properties than for larger apartment buildings. In 2008, 23.7 per 1,000 multifamily rental properties of two to four apartments received a foreclosure notice, up from 7.1 per 1,000 in 2005. The lowest foreclosure rate among renter-occupied properties was for larger apartment buildings of five or more apartments: 10.6 per 1,000 units in 2008.

Although we do not have number of apartments for multifamily rental apartment buildings, we can make a conservative estimate of the number of renter households affected by foreclosure by assuming three apartments per building for smaller rental buildings and five apartments per building for larger buildings. Based on these assumptions we estimate that, between 2006 and the third quarter of 2008, at least 2,800 renter households were living in properties affected by foreclosure in the District of Columbia. The largest share of these properties, 1,500 households, were in small multifamily rental properties of two to four apartments each. Another 1,000 households lived in renter-occupied single-family homes and condominiums and at least 300 were living in large apartment buildings of five or more units.

It is important to note that renters in the District of Columbia do have some protections in the case of foreclosure. According to the D.C. Office of the Tenant Advocate, the Rental Housing Act of 1985 sets forth ten valid reasons for evicting tenants, which do not include a property foreclosure. The Act states clearly that "except as provided in this section, no tenant shall be evicted from a rental unit?so long as the tenant continues to pay the rent." Nonetheless, despite these protections, a new owner of a foreclosed property can legally evict a sitting tenant for several reasons, such as if the owner wants to occupy the housing unit as his/her own residence (with 90 days notice), or if the owner wants to discontinue renting the property entirely for a year or more (with 180 days notice).

While we have no data at this time on how many District of Columbia renters are actually being evicted or otherwise displaced because of foreclosures, both national data and local intelligence on this issue has raised serious concerns. Tenant counseling organizations in Minnesota and in Cleveland, Ohio, have seen an increase in requests for help from renters facing foreclosure. In Washington, D.C., housing counseling agencies report that they are seeing renters as well as homeowners coming to them to seek assistance in dealing with foreclosed properties. Renters in the District of Columbia need to be informed of their rights to remain in their homes, even in the event of a foreclosure, or be given assistance with other housing options, if they cannot remain in their current homes.

Note: For more on how foreclosures are affecting renters, see the NeighborhoodInfo DC report, Foreclosures and Renters in Washington, D.C. (PDF)

Figure 7. Foreclosure Notice Rates for Renter-Occupied Properties, 2001 - 2008
Washington, D.C.
Figure 7

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Updated 9/10/09