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U.S. Home Prices Off to a Rocky Start in 2012; Miami, Phoenix and Washington DC Buck National Price Trend

U.S. Home Prices Off to a Rocky Start in 2012; Miami, Phoenix and Washington DC Buck National Price Trend

Residential News » North America Residential News Edition | By Michael Gerrity | March 27, 2012 9:35 AM ET



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David M. Blitzer

According to S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices for January 2012, U.S. homes reported annual price declines of 3.9% and 3.8% for the 10- and 20-City Composites, respectively.

Both composites saw price declines of 0.8% in the month of January. Sixteen of 19 MSAs also saw home prices decrease over the month; only Miami, Phoenix and Washington DC home prices went up versus December 2011.

Eight MSAs and both Composites posted new index lows in January. The 10- and 20-City Composites recorded marginal improvements in annual returns over December 2011 when they each posted -4.1%.

In addition to the Composites, Dallas, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa and Washington DC saw their annual rates improve compared to December; while nine of the MSAs saw their annual returns worsen compared to what was reported for December 2011. Denver, Detroit and Phoenix were the only cities to post positive annual growth rates of +0.2%, +1.7% and +1.3%, respectively. Atlanta again posted the lowest annual (and only double-digit negative) return at -14.8%.

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The chart above depicts the annual returns of the 10-City and the 20-City Composite Home Price Indices. In January 2012, the 10- and 20-City Composites recorded annual returns of -3.9% and -3.8%, respectively.

"Despite some positive economic signs, home prices continued to drop. The 10- and 20- City Composites and eight cities - Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa - made new lows," says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices. "Detroit and Phoenix, two cities that have suffered massive price declines, plus Denver, saw increasing prices versus January 2011. The 10-City Composite was down 3.9% and the 20-City was down 3.8% compared to January 2011.

"Due to delays in reporting for Mecklenburg County, we did not publish a January index level for Charlotte, North Carolina. There was not enough January data to publish an accurate index level this month. We are not sure of the reasons for the delays, but do expect to see the data with next month's release. We did include data we received from Gaston County, NC, and York County, SC, in the calculation of the 20-City Composite.

"Atlanta continues to stand out in terms of recent relative weakness. It was down 2.1% over the month, and has fallen by a cumulative 19.7% over the last six months. It also posted the worst annual return, down 14.8%. Seven of the cities were down by 1.0% or more over the month. With the new lows, both Composites are now 34.4% off their relative 2006 peaks."

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The chart above shows the index levels for the 10-City and 20-City Composite Indices. As of January 2012, average home prices across the United States are back to the levels where they were nearly a decade ago - in early 2003. Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks through January 2012, the peak-to-current decline for both the 10-City Composite and 20-City Composite is 34.4%. January's levels are new lows for both Composites in the current housing cycle.

In January 2012, Denver, Detroit and Phoenix were the only MSAs to post positive annual returns. Month-over-month, Miami, Phoenix and Washington DC were the only cities that recorded positive gains -- up 0.6%, 0.9% and 0.7% in January 2012, respectively. Both the 10-City and 20-City Composites were down 0.8% from their December 2011 levels. Eights MSAs (Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa) and both Composites posted new index lows in January 2012. Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and Las Vegas continue to have average home prices below their January 2000 levels.

The table below summarizes the results for January 2012.

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