U.S. home prices reverse course, fall

Nationwide home prices slid in the fourth quarter of 2009, breaking a string of two consecutive quarterly gains, according to the National Association of Realtors quarterly home-price survey.

However, overall declines weren't on the scale of those that occurred during the worst of the housing crisis, and a few bright spots emerged.

Nationally, the median price for a single-family home in the fourth quarter of 2009 fell 4.1 percent when compared to the same period in 2008, from $180,200 to $172,900. The fourth quarter median price also slipped 2.9 percent from the 2009 third quarter median home price of $178,200.

Three of the four U.S. regions lost ground year over year in the fourth quarter. The lone exception was the Midwest, which actually saw a 1.1 percent gain.

In fact, some of the biggest gains in the NAR survey occurred in the Midwest, a region that had suffered debilitating losses during the worst of the real estate declines of 2007 and 2008.

Saginaw-Saginaw Township North, Mich. saw a year-over-year rise of 53.5 percent. Ohio had three cities show significant gains over the fourth quarter of last year: Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor saw a rise of 24.7 percent, Akron was up 22.8 percent and Dayton showed a gain of 21.2 percent.

"Big price gains in many Midwestern areas are due to a more normal range of home sales in contrast with predominately foreclosed sales a year ago," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the NAR, in a statement.

Other markets that previously had been in freefall during the worst of the housing crisis also showed additional signs of stabilizing. The median single family home price in Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, Calif., rose 1 percent from the previous quarter.

The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz., market recorded a modest rise of 0.8 percent, a far cry from the 15.7 percent loss that market suffered between the third and fourth quarters of 2008.

Following are the top 10 rising markets in terms of year-over-year median home values:

Top 10 rising markets
Saginaw-Saginaw Township North, Mich.53.5 percent
Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio24.7 percent
Akron, Ohio22.8 percent
Dayton, Ohio21.2 percent
Memphis, Tenn.20.6 percent
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.17.8 percent
Springfield, Ill.15.6 percent
Toledo, Ohio14.4 percent
Cumberland, Md.-W.Va.13.4 percent
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.13.2 percent


Sales still on the rise

Sales of existing homes, which continue to be driven in part by the extended homebuyer tax credit and historically low interest rates, showed healthy gains over last year's NAR survey.



Nationally, sales of single-family homes, condos and co-ops were up a seasonally-adjusted 27.2 percent, to 6.03 million units versus 4.74 million at the same time in 2008. Vermont and Florida showed the biggest gains in sales figures, rising 68.2 percent and 59.3 percent, respectively.


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