Home prices fell in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter, but were up 2 percent from the market’s trough in the first quarter of 2009, according to the latest Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller National Home Price Indices report released today.

The indices are based on repeat sales of single-family homes over time in all nine U.S. census divisions.

Prices fell a non-seasonally adjusted 3.2 percent in the first quarter from the fourth quarter to a U.S. National Index of 131.81. The index is based on a value of 100 from January 2000. The current index indicates a 31.8 percent appreciation rate since then for a typical home. National home prices are similar to what they were in spring 2003, the report said.

Half of the 20 metro areas covered saw year-over-year price declines in March; the rest saw price increases. The 20-city composite index rose 2.3 percent. Of those to see increases, two posted double-digit rises: San Francisco at 16.2 percent and San Diego at 10.8 percent. Las Vegas posted the only double-digit decrease at -12 percent.

See related article:

Case-Shiller: price gains in 9 of 20 cities


Month-to-month figures were less encouraging. Out of the 20 metro areas covered, 13 saw price declines from February. One, Boston, stayed flat. Detroit saw the biggest decrease at 4.1 percent, and Cleveland saw the biggest increase at 1.8 percent. The 20-city composite fell for the sixth straight month, by 0.5 percent.

"The housing market may be in better shape than this time last year; but, when you look at recent trends there are signs of some renewed weakening in home prices," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s, in a statement.

"It is especially disappointing that the improvement we saw in sales and starts in March did not find its way to home prices. Now that the (federal homebuyer) tax incentive ended on April 30, we don’t expect to see a boost in relative demand," he added.

According to the report, eight of the 20 metro areas posted new index lows in March: Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Detroit; Las Vegas; New York; Portland, Ore.; and Tampa, Fla.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the national index fell 1.3 percent from the fourth quarter.

In a separate house-price index report released today by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the index fell by a seasonally adjusted 1.9 percent from the fourth quarter and 3.1 percent from the first quarter of 2009. Adjusted for inflation, home prices fell 6.3 percent year-over-year.

The FHFA’s purchase-only house-price index covers repeat sales of single-family homes with conforming mortgages acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The report’s monthly index rose 0.3 percent in March from February. The Middle Atlantic census division saw the biggest monthly decrease at -1 percent, while the East South Central division saw the biggest increase at 2.5 percent.

Home prices fell 2.2 percent year-over-year in March. Only the Pacific division saw a price gain at 3.1 percent. The other regions saw decreases with the Mountain division seeing the worst drop, at -5.9 percent.

The National Association of Realtors on Monday reported that existing-home sales were up 7.6 percent from March to April, but that housing inventoy grew by 11.5 percent as homes came on the market faster than they were sold.

The roughly 4 million homes on the market represented an 8.4-month supply of homes, NAR said — more than the six months that many analysts consider a better balance between supply and demand.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun acknowledged that with the expiration of the federal homebuyer tax credit at the end of April, "no doubt there will be some temporary fallback" in the month ahead. But Yun maintained there were no signs of price instability yet, with median home prices up 4 percent from a year ago, to $173,100.


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