Home prices post loss, but no record is set
NEW YORK - In another sign the housing crisis could be reaching the bottom, home prices dropped sharply in February, but for the first time in 25 months the decline was not a record.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index, released yesterday, showed home prices in 20 major cities tumbled by 18.6 percent from February 2008.
That was slightly better than January's 19 percent and the first time since January 2007 the index didn't set a record.
"We've seen early signs over the last couple of months of some stabilization, particularly in the markets that were hardest hit," Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan said.
But the good news was mixed.
All 20 cities in the report showed monthly and annual price declines, but half recorded annual records. Prices fell by more than 10 percent in 15 cities, including Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Phoenix. In fact, Phoenix home prices have lost more than half their value since peaking in July 2006.
Yet, nine of the metros - including Boston, Dallas, and Denver - showed improvement in their yearly losses, compared to the month before.
"We will certainly need a few more months of data before we can determine if home prices are finally turning around," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P index committee.
Rich Patterson, a Dallas RE/MAX agent, said that in the last two months he's seen a lot of first-time buyers interested in homes up to $250,000.
He attributes the increase to low interest rates and the $8,000 US tax credit.
"The buyers are still getting good deals, but they're not stealing properties," said Patterson, noting that sellers are cutting their asking prices about 4 percent to snag a deal.