U.S. home prices show signs of life

U.S. housing values showed signs of life during the third quarter, according to the latest National Association of Realtors home price survey.

While housing values were down significantly year-over-year in the vast majority of markets, many markets hard hit by the extended real estate slump rose when compared to the second quarter.

Nationally, the average single-family home price fell from $200,400 to $177,000 year over year, a seasonally adjusted loss of 11.2 percent, according to the NAR. However, average home prices actually rose 2.2 percent during the third quarter -- from $174,100 to $177,900 -- when compared to the second quarter.

Several markets severely affected by the housing downturn saw price improvement. Median home prices in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a market that epitomized the collapse in housing prices during the worst of the downturn, rose for the second consecutive quarter, from $207,400 to $217,000. Hard-hit Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz., also registered a second straight quarterly gain, rising 8.8 percent from $131,100 to $142,700.

The Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario, Calif. area, which has seen its median home price drop by more than half since its 2006 peak, recorded a quarterly gain of 4.1 percent, rising from $161,500 to $168,100. And prices in Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., -- which saw its median value plunge from $268,200 in 2006 to as low as $84,000 in the second quarter of this year -- finally reversed direction, jumping 16.7 percent in the third quarter to $98,000.

Several markets showed healthy year-over-year gains as well. Median prices in Cumberland, Md.-W.Va., soared 19.2 percent year over year, to $122,100. Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Iowa-Ill., also recorded double digit yearly gains, jumping 14.3 percent to $115,600. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City home values rose 9.1 percent to $144,100.

Sales rise

Sales of existing homes, spurred on in part by the recently extended homebuyer tax credit, continued to accelerate, according to the survey.

"We can't underestimate just how powerful a catalyst the first-time homebuyer tax credit has been for the housing sector," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, in a statement. "It's given buyers the confidence they needed to get off the fence and take advantage of extremely affordable housing conditions."

Compared to the second quarter, 45 states and the District of Columbia saw sales increases. Of those markets, D.C. and 28 states recorded double-digit gains. Overall, sales rose 11.4 percent nationally in the third quarter.

Year-over-year sales were higher in 32 states and D.C., and rose a seasonally adjusted 5.9 percent nationally.

Top 10 gains
Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.19.2 percent
Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Iowa-Ill.14.3 percent
Oklahoma City9.1 percent
Shreveport-Bossier City, La.8.6 percent
Cedar Rapids, Iowa7.6 percent
Bismarck, N.D.7.5 percent
Ft. Wayne, Ind.6.9 percent
Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y.4.8 percent
Jackson, Miss.4.6 percent
Durham, N.C.3.6 percent

Still a grim picture

Despite the good news in the survey, year-over-year losses were substantial in many markets. Thirty-six metropolitan areas in the survey recorded double-digit year-over-year drops in median home prices.

Despite a strong quarterly gain, Cape Coral-Fort Myers recorded a year-over-year median price drop of a whopping 40 percent. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., saw home values fall 34.5 percent annually. Orlando, Fla., and Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario, Calif. each dropped 26 percent year over year.

Median home values in the West led the way down, declining 16.4 percent over a one-year period. Values also fell 9.4 percent in the Northeast, 7.9 percent in the South and 5.5 percent in the Midwest.

Top 10 biggest drops
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.-40 percent
Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.-34.5 percent
Orlando, Fla.-26 percent
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.-26 percent
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach, Fla.-24.6 percent
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla.-24.6 percent
Reno-Sparks, Nev.-24.1 percent
Ocala, Fla.-24 percent
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.-22.9 percent
Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, Fla.-22 percent

And while homeowners battered by horrendous losses are likely to cheer the glimmers of good news in the third-quarterly survey, Yun stresses that the housing market isn't out of the woods yet.

"The decline in the national median price has moderated recently, and a shrinking supply of unsold inventory suggests we are getting closer to price stabilization in many areas, but we need a steady stream of financially qualified buyers to further reduce inventory and get us to a self-sustaining market," he said.

How did home values fare in your area? See our state-by-state map.


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