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Clashing values

By Holden Lewis ·
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Posted: 4 pm ET

Two -- actually, three -- home price indicators delivered the news today that house values continue to fall.

In the S&P/Case-Shiller composite of 20 large metro areas, house prices fell 1.6 percent in November 2010, compared to prices in November 2009. In nine of those 20 markets -- Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami, Seattle, Tampa and Portland, Ore. -- prices hit their lowest levels since their peaks in 2006 and 2007.

The news was more grim for homeowners in the monthly house price index compiled by the FHFA, the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In FHFA's reckoning, house prives fell 4.3 percent from November 2009 to November 2010. Nationally, prices are where they were in August 2004, according to FHFA.

I suppose that's good news for home buyers. But buyers have their challenges in getting approved for mortgages. It's a great time to buy houses for cash.

The third home price indicator came in the monthly email I get from Zillow. And, boy, as I write this, something weird has happened. When I checked my Zestimate this morning, Zillow said my house had lost 2.5 percent value in the last month, falling from $200,000 to $195,000.

That was this morning. I checked this afternoon, and now Zillow says my house is worth $194,000. A $1,000 drop in just a few hours! I guess I'd better power-wash the sidewalk or trim shrubbery or take care of whatever my grumpy neighbors wish I wouldn't neglect. (In my 'hood, they get mad when you don't power-wash your roof shingles. As if it's any of their business. Floridians are weird.)

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C. Burke
January 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Refinancing even with equity is hard because of declining markets. I had to take a 50 basis point hit on my refi because I was below the 80% mark, but bank forecasters said the market would put it over 80% LTV when the market reached bottom. They wouldn't refi me otherwise.