Swing State Housing Scorecard: Iowa a Ripe Harvest for Romney

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the week before the presidential election, RealtyTrac is releasing a series of housing articles — dubbed the ‘Swing State Housing Scorecard’ — taking a closer look at eight swing states representing 95 electoral votes — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. These states are considered tossups and crucial to winning the White House. The articles will evaluate how each state will lean if voters choose a candidate based on whether their state’s housing market is better off (presumably Obama) or worse off (presumably Romney) than it was four years ago.

Although President Barack Obama continues to maintain a slight lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the Iowa polls, Romney recently picked up the endorsement of four major newspapers in the state.

That could give Romney some momentum if voters are convinced by these media endorsements. More likely, Romney will pick up Iowa’s six electoral votes in next week’s election thanks to voters who cast their ballots based on the condition of the housing market — which RealtyTrac data shows is worse off now than it was four years ago.

Average home prices in Iowa are up 21 percent compared to four years ago — bucking the trend in most states — but the state’s housing market is worse off than four years ago in all four of the other key metrics that RealtyTrac analyzed.

Although still well below the national average at 5.2 percent,  Iowa’s unemployment rate is up 24 percent from four years ago. Inventory of properties in foreclosure or bank owned is up 91 percent from four years ago while the number of properties starting the foreclosure process in September 2012 was 65 percent higher than the number of properties starting the foreclosure process in September 2008.

Distressed Sales Biggest Drag
The biggest negative for Iowa’s housing market is the share of distressed sales that are occurring now compared to four years ago. RealtyTrac data shows that nearly 13 percent of all residential real estate sales in the state were homes in foreclosure or bank owned during the second quarter of 2012, up 197 percent from the 4 percent share of distressed sales in the second quarter of 2008.

But real estate agent Nancy Laxton with Iowa Realty in Indianola argues that the housing market in central Iowa at least is better off than four years ago based on her experience.

“The housing market in central Iowa is much better off than four years ago,” Laxton, a Certified Distressed Property Expert, wrote in an email. “I cannot say prices are higher but this year buyers are actually buying homes and the inventory is now getting low. This will increase the prices and hopefully at a more normal pace.”

Going against grain of the newspaper endorsements, Laxton said she believes President Obama is the better presidential candidate for the economy and housing market.

Other Housing Market Scorecards
Narrow Obama Victory in Virginia
Ohio May Opt for Obama
Florida Taps Romney
Colorado Favors Romney
Nevada May Double Down on Obama

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