A U.S. home-price index, based on repeat sales of single-family homes over time, fell 14.1 percent in the first quarter compared to the same quarter last year — a record in its 20-year history.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller national index, which tracks more than 100 metro areas and covers about 70 percent of the country, declined 6.7 percent in the first quarter compared to fourth-quarter 2007.

During the 1990-91 housing recession, the annual rate for the national index hit bottom with a 2.8 percent decline, by comparison, according to the report.

A separate index that tracks monthly home-price changes for 20 metro areas across the country also set a new record with a 14.4 percent year-over-year decline in March.

The S&P/Case-Shiller price indices have their share of critics — some say the sampling of metro areas in the monthly index experience more dramatic price fluctuations than many other metro areas in the country, for example, and the market-specific index data may be thin at times and not reflective of all sales in a given market area.

The index data is based on price pairs for arms-length transactions and counts sales of bank-owned properties while excluding new homes.

A government house-price index, which is also based on repeat sales of homes, fell 3.1 percent year-over-year in the first quarter and dropped 1.7 percent compared to fourth-quarter 2007. When adjusted for inflation, the year-over-year decline in the first quarter translates to 7.7 percent.

That index, produced by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, is based on repeat transactions that involve conforming, conventional mortgages purchased or guaranteed by government-chartered entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Because of this, the OFHEO index can show more moderate price declines than the Case-Shiller index, which considers repeat sales of homes for all loan types — even riskier subprime mortgage loans.

And another index, prepared by the National Association of Realtors trade group, found that the median price of single-family resale homes dropped at a record 7.7 percent year-over-year in the first quarter. That is based on data for 149 U.S. metro areas. NAR also reported that the median price declined 5.8 percent in the first quarter compared to the previous quarter.

In the latest S&P/Case-Shiller report, 19 of 20 metro areas in the monthly index had year-over-year index declines in March — Charlotte, N.C., saw a 0.8 percent rise from March 2007 to March 2008.

Las Vegas had the steepest index decline during that period, down 25.9 percent, followed by Miami, down 24.6 percent; and Phoenix, down 23 percent.

Dallas had a 1.1 percent gain in index value from February 2008 to March 2008 and Charlotte had a 0.2 percent gain. All of the other markets in the 20-metro area index had month-to-month index declines.

Miami had the largest month-to-month decline at 4.5 percent, followed by Las Vegas, down 4.4 percent; and Los Angeles, down 3.6 percent.

S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Report, Q1 and March 2008


Q4 ’07-Q1 ’08

Q1 ’07-Q1 ’08





Feb. ’08-March ’08

March ’07-March ’08




























Las Vegas



Los Angeles









New York









San Diego



San Francisco









Washington, D.C.



Source: S&P/Case-Shiller


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