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Report: Home Prices May Be Leveling Off

The spiraling decline in home values for the past too-many-months slowed in February, according to data released by ""Standard & Poor's"":http://www.standardandpoors.com on Tuesday. While the prices of existing single family homes across the United States continued to slide, the downward trend didn't gain any speed, offering a sliver of promise to the nation's housing markets.
David M. Blitzer, chairman of S&P’s home price index committee, told the _""New York Times"":http://www.nytimes.com_, ""Finally, we’re seeing a touch of moderation. This is the kind of thing one might see if we’re beginning to see a bottom. I would not run out and celebrate, but I would not dig the bunker any deeper.""
The ""S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices"":http://www.homeprice.standardandpoors.com, covering market data through February 2009, showed that for the first time in 16 months, the annual decline of the 10-city and 20-city composites did not set a new record. The 10-city and 20-city composites recorded annual declines of 18.8 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively. This is a slight improvement from their returns reported for January, where they fell by 19.4 percent and 19.0 percent.
Still, 15 of the 20 metro areas studied saw declines in excess of 10 percent versus February 2008, and 10 metros showed record rates of annual decline. However, looking at the short-term, Blitzer pointed out that 16 of the 20 metros reported an improvement in their monthly returns compared to January, and nine saw improvements in their annual returns compared to their return in January.
Blitzer noted that even though we witnessed some deceleration in the rate of decline in some regional markets, a few more months of data are needed before it can be determined that home prices are finally turning around.
According to S&P's market data, February's average home prices across the United States are at similar levels to where they were in the third quarter of 2003. From the peak in mid 2006, S&P said, the 10-city composite is down 31.6 percent and the 20-city composite is down 30.7 percent.
All 20 metro areas studied by S&P reported negative monthly and annual rates of change in average home prices in February. In January’s report, seven metro areas and the 20-city composite posted record monthly declines, but in February, Cleveland was the only metro area with a record monthly decline, returning -5.0 percent. Cleveland, Charlotte, New York, and Washington were the only metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) showing larger declines in home prices in February compared to January’s report.
In terms of annual declines, S&P said the three worst performing cities continue to be from the Sunbelt, each reporting negative returns in excess of 30 percent. Phoenix was down 35.2 percent, Las Vegas declined 31.7 percent, and San Francisco fell 31.0 percent.
Dallas, Denver, and Boston faired the best in terms of annual declines, down 4.5 percent, 5.7 percent, and 7.2 percent, respectively. Dallas also had the distinction of being the best performer for the month, returning -0.3 percent.
Looking at S&P's data from peak-thru-February 2009, Dallas has suffered the least, down 11.1 percent from its peak in June 2007. Phoenix tells a distinctly different story, down 50.8 percent from its market peak in June of 2006. S&P explained that the rates of decline from the respective peak of each market are evidence of how much each market has given back from the gains earned in the past 10-15 years. All of the 20 metro areas are in double digit declines from their peaks, with ten of the MSAs posting declines of greater than 30 percent and seven of those -- Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, San Francisco, and San Diego -- in excess of 40 percent.

About Author: Carrie Bay

Carrie Bay is a freelance writer for DS News and its sister publication MReport. She served as online editor for DSNews.com from 2008 through 2011. Prior to joining DS News and the Five Star organization, she managed public relations, marketing, and media relations initiatives for several B2B companies in the financial services, technology, and telecommunications industries. She also wrote for retail and nonprofit organizations upon graduating from Texas A&M University with degrees in journalism and English.

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