Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Home Prices Continue Downward March

REAL ESTATE MAY 26, 2009, 10:01 A.M. ET

U.S. home prices continued their multiyear tumble in March, according to the S&P Case-Shiller home-price indexes, as the downdraft shows no near-term signs of abating.

For the first quarter, the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index posted a 19.1% drop from a year earlier, the biggest quarterly decline for the reading's 21-year history. S&P Case-Shiller releases 10-city and 20-city indexes every month, but also releases a broader national index every quarter.

Separately, the monthly numbers showed 15 of 20 major metropolitan areas posted price declines of more than 10% from a year earlier, with the Sun Belt continuing to be hit hardest. Nationally, home prices are at levels similar to the fourth quarter of 2002.

David M. Blitzer, chairman of S&P's index committee, noted that March was only the second time since October 2007 that both the 10- and 20-city index didn't report record annual price declines.

Sortable Chart: Home Prices, by Metro Area Developments: How to Invest in Foreclosures Econ Newsletter: Click here to sign up Still, three of the 20 metro areas reported record monthly declines: Minneapolis, Detroit and New York. Minneapolis had a 6.1% drop just in March, the biggest-ever monthly decline measured by the index.

The indexes showed prices in 10 major metropolitan areas fell 18.6% in March from a year earlier and 2.1% from February. In 20 major metropolitan areas, home prices dropped 18.7% from the prior year and 2.2% from February.

Two regions reported a slight price increase in March from a month earlier: Charlotte and Denver. A third, Dallas, was flat. Also, nine of the 20 areas reported better month-to-month results in March than February.

For the 12th straight month, no region was able to avoid a year-over-year decline. Phoenix and Las Vegas were again the worst performers, with drops of 36% and 31%, respectively. Phoenix is down 53% from its peak in June 2006. Dallas has been the least hurt, down 11% from its June 2007 peak.

Write to Kerry E. Grace at kerry.grace@dowjones.com and Kevin Kingsbury at kevin.kingsbury@dowjones.com

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