After so many months of rising prices, what could push prices down in the upcoming year?

For my story yesterday, all of the analysts I talked to mentioned one factor they’re watching: what’s commonly called the shadow inventory.

I asked S&P analyst Maureen Maitland what was sparking the fears of the double dip.

Basically the fear is coming from the general economy — high unemployment and what many people believe may be a foreclosure inventory overhang sitting out there waiting to hit the market.

So how big could that overhang be in San Diego County?

Sean O’Toole at ForeclosureRadar sent me some numbers so we could try to answer that question. I included them in my story, but here’s a summary:

As of Tuesday, there are a combined 19,453 active foreclosures that haven’t hit the market yet. That’s more than twice as many homes are currently on the market. Only about 8,600 properties are currently listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service, according to a search Tuesday of online property search site ZipRealty.com.

It does seem nearly everyone I talk to has a story about a house on their street or a friend they have where no mortgage payments have been made for several months, yet the house hasn’t yet come on the market for resale. These numbers do something to confirm that sense.

(Note: A couple of months ago the ForeclosureRadar guys made a big splash when they said that shadow inventory is a myth. Here’s a North County Times article about that report. But what that report referred to was specifically homes that have already been repossessed by banks — known as REOs — but haven’t yet been listed. The numbers I use above are the homes that are in one of the first two stages of foreclosure, but haven’t yet become REOs.)

— KELLY BENNETT

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