The chance that home prices will fall during the next two years increased in 39 of the 50 largest U.S. markets during the third quarter, according to the latest quarterly risk index from PMI Mortgage Insurance Co.

PMI’s Winter 2008 U.S. Market Risk Index showed a greater than 50 percent chance of price declines in 13 of the nation’s 50 largest housing markets, up from 10 in the previous quarter.

PMI said some of the increase in house-price risk was due to changes to its model, which now includes data on foreclosure rates provided by the Mortgage Bankers Association. But in many cases, higher risk scores reflected “a significant deterioration of the housing market in the third quarter.”

There is a “high likelihood that home prices will be lower in many of these MSAs two years from now,” the report said. Although the number of MSAs with relatively low home-price risk continues to outnumber those with relatively high risk, that could change if the economy and financial markets worsen further, PMI warned.

All but two of the 13 highest-risk markets were in California and Florida. In California, the report noted, markets in the Central Valley and Southern California are weaker than those in the Northern California MSAs, where employment continues to be strong.

The metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with the highest risk scores were Riverside, Calif., where PMI forecasts a 94 percent chance of a two-year price decline; Las Vegas (89 percent); and Phoenix (83 percent).

Markets that saw significant price increases from 2002 to 2005 are “at much higher risk of price declines” than those where prices appreciated more modestly, said David Berson, chief economist for PMI’s parent company, The PMI Group Inc., in a statement.

Although housing affordability improved in 161 of 381 MSAs studied, it declined in the remaining 220 markets. Nationwide, the affordability index was 95.53, compared with 95.96 in the second quarter of 2007.

The number of MSAs experiencing year-over-year price declines during third quarter — 89 — was also up from 67 in the previous quarter, the report said, citing numbers from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO).

Among the top 50 MSAs, the 13 judged by PMI to be facing a greater than 50 percent chance of price declines in the next two years were:

  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. (94 percent)
  • Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev. (83 percent)
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz. (83 percent)
  • Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif. (81 percent)
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif. (79 percent)
  • Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, Fla. (78 percent)
  • Orlando-Kissimmee, Fla. (74 percent)
  • Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, Calif. (73 percent)
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. (72 percent)
  • West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, Fla. (71 percent)
  • San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, Calif. (69 percent)
  • Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, Calif. (65 percent)
  • Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, Fla. (58 percent)

The markets identified by PMI as the least risky, with a less than 1 percent chance of price decline during the next two years, were Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, N.C.-S.C.; Kansas City, Mo.-Kan.; Austin-Round Rock, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Cincinnati-Middletown, Ohio, Ky., Ind.; Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind.; San Antonio, Texas; Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas; and Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas.


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