The latest home price report from ""Standard & Poor's"":http://www.standardandpoors.com indicates that property values may be leveling off. The company's national index, which is produced only once a[IMAGE]quarter and covers all nine U.S. census divisions, showed a seasonally-adjusted gain of 0.3 percent between the third and fourth quarters of last year. Without taking into account seasonal factors, the national reading was down 1.1 percent on a quarter-to-quarter basis. The movement may seem slight, but it's a considerable improvement from the freefall that's pushed home values 32 percent below their 2006 peak.
According to the ""S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index"":http://www.standardandpoors.com/indices/sp-case-shiller-home-price-indices/en/us/?indexId=spusa-cashpidff--p-us released Tuesday, residential property values were down 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to one year earlier. S&P noted that this is a significant improvement over the annual variances reported in the first (-19.0 percent), second (-14.7 percent), and third (-8.7 percent) quarters of the year, and shows a definite pattern of diminishing declines.
In December, S&PÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s closely-watched 10-city and 20-city composites recorded annual declines of 2.4 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively. These two indices, which are[COLUMN_BREAK]
reported at a monthly frequency, have seen improvements in their annual rates of return every month since the beginning of 2009. Following suit with the two composites, S&P said all 20 metro areas saw improvement in their annual returns compared to November's data. Only three cities Ã¢â‚¬" Detroit, Las Vegas and Tampa Ã¢â‚¬" still showed double digit annual rates of decline as of the end of 2009.
""As measured by prices, the housing market is definitely in better shape than it was this time last year, as the pace of deterioration has stabilized for now,Ã¢â‚¬Â said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor's.
Blitzer added that the rate of improvement seen during the summer months of last year has not been sustained, but noted that the latest report reflects the typical seasonally slow period for home prices.
As of the fourth quarter of 2009, S&P said average home prices across the United States are at similar levels to what they were in the summer of 2003.
Looking at the monthly statistics, 15 of the 20 markets tracked by the index showed a decline from November to December, with Chicago posting the sharpest drop of 1.6 percent.
Three of the markets Ã¢â‚¬" Charlotte, Seattle and Tampa Ã¢â‚¬" posted their lowest index levels in four years. S&P said any gains they might have seen in recent months have been erased and December is now considered their current trough value.
At the other end of the spectrum, Las Vegas posted its first monthly gain in more than three years, up 0.2 percent, and Los Angeles led the nation with a 1 percent month-over-month increase.