It looks like the spell is finally broken. Home prices rose for the first time in eight months, according to the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller index.
The 20-city composite index increased 0.8 percent from March to April, shows a report released Tuesday.
That's somewhat good news, but don’t get too excited. The average price of a single-family home is down about 4 percent compared to last year and is back to 2003 levels, according to the report.
"In a welcome shift from recent months, this month is better than last -- April’s numbers beat March," says David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Indices. "However, the seasonally adjusted numbers show that much of the improvement reflects the beginning of the spring-summer homebuying season. It is much too early to tell if this is a turning point or simply due to some warmer weather."
The seasonally adjusted figures show a 4 percent decline in home prices in April.
"In short, better news, but still a lot of questions and a long way to go," Blitzer says.
Seven cities experienced lower real estate prices in April compared to 18 in March. Detroit saw the biggest decline, 2.9 percent. The others were Boston, Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami and Tampa, Fla.
Of the 20 cities included in the report, the only market to post a year-over-year gain is Washington, D.C., which saw a 4 percent increase in prices compared to last year.
But no matter how you try to spin these numbers, those who bought during the boom have little to celebrate. On average, home prices in the United States have declined 32.8 percent from the peak in June/July 2006 through April 2011, according to the report.
"For a real recovery we would need to see several months of increasing home prices, large enough to shift the annual momentum to the positive side," Blitzer says.
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