February 18th, 2011 3:07 PM by Sherry Lee
You almost need to squint to find any good news in Zillow.com’s fourth quarter housing report for South Florida.
Home values in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties fell 15.4 percent from a year ago to $139,100. Of the 132 markets surveyed, only five -- Pueblo, Colo.; Mobile, Ala.; Ocala; Detroit and Lansing, Mich. -- had steeper annual declines.
Values of South Florida single-family homes, condominiums and co-ops have plummeted roughly 55 percent since 2006 and now are what they were in October 2002. Nationally, home values have dropped 27 percent in the past four years.
The percentage of single-family homes with a mortgage in South Florida that are “underwater” is holding steady: 43 percent, compared with 44 percent a year ago. The percentage of homes sold at a loss rose slightly to 47 percent in December from 46 percent a year earlier.
Despite the sober stats, there is a sliver of hope for South Florida, says Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow, a Seattle-based real estate website that turned 5 years old this week.
The region’s monthly home price depreciation is getting smaller. It was at 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter, down from 1.8 percent in May 2010. Humphries also points to the continued presence of cash buyers, who “probably think that the bottom is close.”
Humphries expects a “definitive” bottom for home prices nationally by the end of this year. South Florida’s bottom will occur after that. But he can’t yet say when that will be.
“We’re not months away,” he said. “It’s going to take a while.”