U.S. homeowners lost a whopping $1.4 trillion in home value during the fourth quarter, pushing full year values down $3.3 trillion, according to real estate information service Zillow.
The fourth quarter loss was greater than the $1.3 trillion lost during all of 2007.
Since the real estate market peaked in 2006, more than $6.1 trillion in home equity has been lost, which explains why so many are beyond help.
Foreclosures accounted for 19.9 percent of all sales in 2008, with short sales contributing another 10.9 percent.
Foreclosure sales were 46.8 percent in the Las Vegas metro, 41.4 percent in Phoenix, and 35.9 percent in Los Angeles.
Short sales were highest in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington metro, accounting for 11.7 percent of all transactions.
“A witch’s brew of economic insecurity, foreclosures and tightened lending standards are helping to keep hard-hit markets down and to widen the scope of markets showing declines in home values,” said Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow vice president of data and analytics.
“People without jobs, or fearing job loss, typically don’t buy homes, no matter how low prices or mortgage rates might be. Public policy, in terms of both job creation and efforts to stem the tide of foreclosures, will have a large influence on when some of these markets find bottom.”
Meanwhile, a record 19 million homes stood vacant at the end of 2008, according to U.S. census bureau data released today.
That’s up 6.7 percent from the 17.8 million vacant properties seen a year earlier, pushing the share of empty homes for sale to 2.9 percent in the latest quarter, the highest vacancy rate on record.