Housing Bottom Still Out of Sight

American home prices just suffered their worst quarter in recorded history.

That’s the word from the National Association of Realtors today… the median home price fell 14% from the first quarter of 2008 to the first three months of 2009, to just $169,000. Of the 152 metropolitan areas surveyed by the NAR, just 18 registered annual price gains. Nearly half of all sales during the first quarter were foreclosed properties or short sales. A whopping 3.7 million previously owned homes are still on the market.

Is this rock bottom for U.S. housing? Ehh… probably not.


After staying flat for most of the ’90s, the Case/Shiller home price index more than tripled during a 10-year boom. If this “credit crisis” is what people say it is — a generational calamity, Bill Bonner’s “Depression with a capital ‘D’” — then a mere 26% retrenchment from the peak seems kind of… lame. Even the Dow managed a bigger fall than that.

If you’re a real estate opportunist (or just looking for a damn cheap house), you might want to check out Saginaw, Mich. The median existing home price there during the first quarter was a stunning $30,300, the lowest in the U.S. We won’t pretend to know what’s going on over there, but geez… they’re practically giving ’em away.

And if you’re also a newshound, like us, Saginaw might bring back the memory of this little love shack:


Back in October 2008, a Chicago woman famously bought this Saginaw home on eBay for $1.75. Ouch.