Foreclosures down and property values up, but is recovery sustainable?

While the housing market is far from returning to it's pre-recession highs, there do seem to be a few bright spots on the horizon in terms of the country's short-term real estate picture. For instance, the latest data from the Standard & Poor's/Case Schiller Home Price Index shows that the price of residential properties across the country have gone up significantly over the past year, with the third quarter of 2012 showing the best numbers since just before the burst of the housing bubble in early 2007.

Compared to the second quarter of 2013, the period between August and October showed home values increase by 3.2 percent. And as impressive as this figure may appear, when comparing these latest figures to the numbers recorded in the third quarter of 2012, there has been a jump of almost 12 percent in property values across the country.

"Housing continues to emerge from the financial crisis: the proportion of homes in foreclosure is declining and consumers' balance sheets are strengthening," David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in an official statement. "The longer run question is whether household formation continues to recover and if home ownership will return to the peak levels seen in 2004."

This index also took a look at the top 20 most populous metropolitan areas in the country, and indicated that the most sought-after markets are seeing the greatest increase in residential property values. In fact, the prices of new homes jumped more than 13 percent during the period, which is the largest jump witnessed on a year-over-year level since February 2006. 

Compounding this good news is the fact that the recent sales data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is indicating that the number of homes being sold currently on the market has shrunk yet again in October. From September to October, there was a decrease in distressed inventory by 14 percent, while the year-to-year figure shrank roughly 25 percent. At current levels, foreclosed-upon residences have been reduced to the lowest levels since 2008. 

However, conditions, though improved, are far from ideal for the housing market. The number of new homes being constructed and entering the market isn't keeping up with demand and affordability is becoming harder and harder for prospective buyers. 

With so many variables still up in the air, it is hard to determine how individuals who have made investments into the real estate market will fare without looking into asset protection