Home prices in the third quarter remained essentially flat despite a drop-off in existing-home sales compared to the same period in 2009, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors.

Median existing single-family home prices rose year-over-year in 77 of 155 metropolitan areas tracked by the association. At the same time, median prices fell in 76 metro areas and stayed the same in two. Home prices reflect sales prices of closed transactions.

Single-family homes sold for a median $177,900 in the third quarter, roughly flat compared to $178,200 in the third quarter of 2009.

"Even with swings in home sales, prices this year have been changing very little from year-ago readings. Areas with some larger swings in home price reflect the degree of distressed sales in those markets," said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, in a statement.

Distressed properties made up 34 percent of sales in the third quarter, up from 30 percent for the same period in 2009 and up from 32 percent in the second quarter.

Sales of existing single-family homes and condos in the third quarter saw double-digit drops both from the second quarter and the third quarter of 2009.

Sales fell 25.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.16 million from a rate of 5.57 million in the second quarter, which the association partially attributed to the federal homebuyer tax credits. Year-over-year, sales fell 21.2 percent from 5.28 million.

Every state saw home sales fall year-over-year with all but three states (Florida, Hawaii and Idaho) and Washington, D.C., experiencing double-digit percentage declines. Interestingly, North Dakota saw the biggest drop in sales, 34.3 percent, to 9,200. Florida saw the smallest drop, 1 percent, to 350,000.

In its latest economic outlook, NAR is forecasting a 6.6 percent drop in existing-home sales compared to 2009, to 4.82 million.

At 3.79 million year-to-date, existing-home sales are essentially flat compared to the same period in 2009.

The West saw the smallest year-over-year price drop for existing single-family homes: 0.4 percent to $224,800. Sales fell by 18.2 percent compared to 2009’s third quarter, to 973,000.

The Midwest saw both the largest price drop and the largest drop in sales. Homes sold for a median $145,600, a 3 percent year-over-year decrease. Sales fell 28.9 percent year-over-year to 860,000.

The South, which typically experiences the biggest share of sales, saw the smallest year-over-year sales drop, 16.4 percent, to 1.64 million. Homes sold for a median $157,000, a 1.9 percent year-over-year decline.

The Northeast was the only region to see a year-over-year price increase for existing single-family homes: 2.5 percent to $253,400. Nevertheless, the region saw the second-largest year-over-year drop in sales: down 24.4 percent to 693,000.

Existing condos sold for a median $171,400 in the third quarter, down 3.9 percent from the third quarter of 2009, NAR said.

The top 10 appreciating markets, with third-quarter median home price and year-over-year change, were:

Metro Area Median home price (Q3) Year-over-year Pct Chg.
Burlington-South Burlington, Vt. $286,300 17.6%
Elmira, N.Y. $110,500 16.9%
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas $171,500 14.2%
Fargo, N.D.-Minn. $161,400 13.6%
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn. $451,200 13.3%
Erie, Pa. $116,400 13.2%
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. $190,100 13.1%
Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine $227,100 12.0%
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. $628,700 11.1%
Shreveport-Bossier City, La. $168,600 10.7%

The top 10 declining markets, with third-quarter median home price and year-over-year change, were:

Metro Area Median home price (Q3) Year-over-year Pct Chg.
Ocala, Fla. $82,200 -20.0%
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla. $93,100 -15.0%
Tucson, Ariz. $148,100 -14.9%
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa. $60,400 -14.6%
Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss. $118,100 -14.4%
Boise City-Nampa, Idaho  $131,800 -14.1%
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga. $113,500 -12.3%
Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.  $107,400 -12.0%
Orlando, Fla. $140,500 -11.0%
Canton-Massillon, Ohio  $79,500 -11.0%

Source: National Association of Realtors.

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