Zillow.com, which offers online automated home valuations and other real estate information, this week announced that its index for estimated U.S. home values plunged 14.2 percent year-over-year in the first quarter, to $182,378.

The company’s latest quarterly Zillow Home Value Index is based on estimated value changes for homes in 161 U.S. metro areas.

While estimated values fell or remained flat in 85 of the 161 markets in first-quarter 2009 compared to the same quarter last year, the index also found that 17 markets have experienced a rising value for at least the past two quarters.

Zillow reported that eight regions — including Modesto and Stockton, Calif., and Fort Myers, Fla. — have experienced nine consecutive quarters of decline in estimated median value, which has slipped more than 50 percent.

An estimated 21.9 percent of U.S. homeowners had negative equity at the close of the first quarter, Zillow reported, compared with 17.6 percent at the close of fourth-quarter 2008, and that was higher than the 14.3 percent with negative equity at the close of third-quarter 2008.

Zillow estimated that 20.4 percent of all transactions in the 12 months concluding after the first quarter were foreclosures in the markets it tracks, compared with 19.9 percent for the 12-month period ending after fourth-quarter 2008.

And short sales accounted for 11.9 percent of transactions in the latest 12-month period, compared with 10.9 percent in the period ending at the close of fourth-quarter 2008, Zillow reported.

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