Another batch of dismal housing data hit the economy Tuesday, including worsening foreclosure rates, piling more pressure on the government to take action that could help pull real estate out of its tailspin.
"We're still in the middle of all this," said Bob Walters, chief economist for Quicken Home Loans in Livonia, Mich., "I would expect the data to get worse before it gets better."
The numbers, in three reports released Tuesday, showed that:
• More than 1 percent of all U.S. households were in some stage of foreclosure last year, a significant increase, according to RealtyTrac, a housing data firm.
• Home values took a major swoon, with prices in a 20-city index tracked by Standard & Poor's declining by a record 7.7 percent in November. The study said Twin Cities-area prices that month were 6.6 percent lower than the year before.
• The rate of homeownership saw its biggest one-year drop on record, and the number of vacant homes climbed to 2.18 million from 2.07 million, the Census Bureau reported.
The numbers likely mean that the decline has further to go, observers said.
"Six months ago, people were saying we will see prices hit rock-bottom, and now I don't think we're seeing even the most optimistic people saying that," said Geoff Smith, vice president of the Woodstock Institute in Chicago, which has studied foreclosure trends.
Smith said that if there's any room for encouragement in the dreary data, it is that the ongoing decline in property values will make homes more affordable and pull buyers back into the market.
"If you see property values coming back down to earth, that's where you're going to see a recovery, in affordability," he said.