Editor’s note: The data below is from the Zillow Real Estate Market Report for the first quarter of 2012.

U.S. home values were up 0.5 percent from February to March but, at $146,200, the national median home value was still down 0.5 percent quarter to quarter and 3.1 percent from a year ago, according to estimates generated by real estate information portal Zillow.

Zillow estimates that national home values are back at 2003 levels, or 24.6 percent below the May 2007 peak of $193,800.

Unlike most home-price indexes, which track sales prices, the Zillow Home Value Index relies on automated valuation estimates ("Zestimates") generated by Zillow for single-family residences, condominiums and cooperatives, regardless of whether they sold within a given period. At the national level, the Zillow Home Value Index reflects the median Zestimate of all homes in the U.S. expressed in dollars.

Of the 165 metros Zillow tracks, 90 showed declines in estimated home values from the fourth quarter of 2011, while 70 showed quarter-to-quarter appreciation and five remained flat.

The top 10 markets for home value appreciation during the first quarter of 2012 were mostly smaller markets like Johnson City, Tenn., and Lebanon, N.H. But two big metro areas that Zillow described as "poster children" for the housing downturn also made the list: Phoenix and Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

A combination of rising rents, low mortgage rates and bottoming-out home prices have Zillow’s analysts predicting that housing markets will scrape bottom by late 2012 or early 2013.

Zillow’s new rent index showed rents increasing in 70 percent of metros tracked from March 2011 to March 2012, compared with only 14 percent of the metros experiencing home-value appreciation in that same time period.

"When the bottom will hit will vary by market, and it’s nearly impossible to time a purchase exactly right," Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said in a statement. Rising mortgage rates could offset any further home value declines, Humphries noted.

Markets that Zillow thinks have already bottomed include Boston, Dallas, Denver, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa. Zillow is forecasting that Baltimore, Los Angeles and San Jose will bottom this year.

But it’s harder to say what trends in Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Riverside and San Diego may portend.

National market Percent Change, March 2012 vs. March 2011
Quater-over-quarter home value change (%) -0.5%
Year-over-year home value change (%) -3.1%
Home value $146,200
Change from 15-year peak (%) -24.6%

Source: Zillow Real Estate Market Report, first quarter 2012

Foreclosures could eventually pick up in the wake of the $26 billion "robo-signing" settlement between loan servicesr and state attorneys general, but Zillow analysts say it’s unclear if they will ever return to pre-robo-signing levels. Foreclosure resales accounted for a record high 20.5 percent of all sales in March.

The top 10 markets for quarter-to-quarter home gains, as measured by the Zillow Home Value Index:

Location: Keene, N.H.


Quarter-over-quarter home value change (%) 3.7%
Year-over-year home value change (%) -8.6%
Zillow Home Value Index $153,200

Keene, N.H., church via Flickr/Dougtone


Location: Phoenix


Quarter-over-quarter home value change (%) 3.5%
Year-over-year home value change (%) 2.8%
Zillow Home Value Index $128,000

Phoenix cityscape at dusk via Shutterstock


Location: Grand Rapids, Mich.


Quarter-over-quarter home value change (%) 3.4%
Year-over-year home value change (%) 3.1%
Zillow Home Value Index $107,200

View of downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., via Shutterstock


Location: Lebanon, N.H.


Quarter-over-quarter home value change (%) 3.3%
Year-over-year home value change (%) 2.7%
Zillow Home Value Index $165,100

Lebanon, N.H., city hall building via Flickr/Dougtone


Location: Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Fla.


Quarter-over-quarter home value change (%) 2.7%
Year-over-year home value change (%) 1.1%
Zillow Home Value Index $141,300

Miami Beach night photo via Shutterstock


Location: Punta Gorda, Fla.


Quarter-over-quarter home value change (%) 2.7%
Year-over-year home value change (%) 0.3%
Zillow Home Value Index $115,900

Punta Gorda, Fla., train station via Flickr/M. Keefe


Location: Johnson City, Tenn.


Quarter-over-quarter home value change (%) 2.3%
Year-over-year home value change (%) -0.6%
Zillow Home Value Index $110,500

Old rail platform in Johnson City, Tenn., via Flickr/Andrew Ciscel


Location: Hilo, Hawaii


Quarter-over-quarter home value change (%) 2.2%
Year-over-year home value change (%) 0.5%
Zillow Home Value Index $226,800

Shipman House bed and breakfast in Hilo, Hawaii, via Flickr/brewbooks


Location: Pittsburgh


Quarter-over-quarter home value change (%) 2.1%
Year-over-year home value change (%) 0.5%
Zillow Home Value Index $107,600

Downtown Pittsburgh from Riverfront Park via Shutterstock


Location: Gainesville, Ga.


Quarter-over-quarter home value change (%) 2.1%
Year-over-year home value change (%) -2.9%
Zillow Home Value Index $115,900

Memorial Day parade in Gainesville, Ga., via Flickr/Olaf

Inman News reporter Paul Hagey compiled this report.

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