Home prices low, sales increase slightly during Q3

Home prices increased by .2 percent in the third quarter of 2011, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency's (FHFA) seasonally adjusted purchase-only house price index.

Home prices increased by .2 percent in the third quarter of 2011, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency's (FHFA) seasonally adjusted purchase-only house price index.

Prices fell 3.7 percent year-over-year with adjustments, although September marked an increase of 0.9 percent from the month before. Accounting for inflation, the FHFA reports that home prices dropped about 8.1 percent in the last year.

"In most regions of the country, third-quarter home values were relatively stable, even in some areas that experienced sharp price declines in preceding quarters," said FHFA principal economist Andrew Leventis. He noted states including Florida, Idaho and Utah improved in the quarter despite troubled markets.

Compared to the purchase-only index, the FHFA index, which tracks all transactions, increased 0.9 percent from the previous quarter, although it remained 4.3 percent lower from 12 months earlier.

The Standard and Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index for the quarter was also released, registering a rise of 0.1 percent in national home prices, which the analysts did not regard as significant. The report indicates national home prices were down 3.9 percent year-over-year, an improvement from the second quarter when they posted a 5.8 percent annual decline. This improvement, analysts report, brings home prices back levels consistent with the first quarter of 2003.

"Detroit and Washington DC posted positive annual rates of change and also saw an improvement in these rates compared to August," said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Indices. "Only New York, Portland and Washington, D.C. posted positive monthly returns versus August. It is a bit disturbing that we saw three cities post new crisis lows. For the prior three or four months, only Las Vegas was weakening each month."

He noted Atlanta and Phoenix have also fallen to new lows and suggested a lack of closed transactions could be contributing to the current conditions in those areas. Despite the difficulties in certain areas, according to Blitzer, the overall improvement in 14 of 20 observed metropolitan statistical areas remains a good sign.

The two reports showed more positive news than negative, although the pace at which housing markets are improving remains a slow one. Some areas have performed significantly better than others. The Illinois Association of Realtors recently noted their state, for example, saw 15.3 percent higher year-over-year sales this October, although the median price was lower as it has been nationwide.



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