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Boston-area housing values continue slide

But they’re stronger than in many other parts of the country

By Jenifer B. McKim
Globe Staff / April 27, 2011

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Boston-area home values slid in February for the seventh consecutive month, according to data released yesterday by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, which measure repeat home sales nationwide.

Boston home values dropped by about 1.5 percent compared with the month before, a slightly steeper fall than the 1.1 percent fall registered by 20 top metro markets tracked by the index.

Karl E. Case, a cofounder of the index and retired Wellesley College economics professor, said housing values probably fell because buyers are having a hard time getting financing or are not convinced they should buy real estate. He said the Boston-area housing market is still much stronger than many other areas of the country, which have had dramatic price drops since 2006.

Case also attributed recent falling home values in the Boston area to February’s cold weather, which kept potential buyers indoors and sellers waiting to hang up a “for sale’’ sign. The values are about 2.8 percent higher than they were at their most recent low in March 2009, according to the Case-Shiller data.

“I think you will see the beginnings of a turnaround in April and May,’’ Case said. “We are not in bad shape.’’

The median price for a single-family home in Massachusetts dropped to $255,000 in February, compared with $270,000 in February 2010, according to the most recent data by the Warren Group, a company that also tracks housing data.

The Case-Shiller data show that prices nationwide were lower than they were a year earlier, but slightly higher than at the bottom of the current housing cycle, which occurred in 2009.

Detroit was the only city to post a positive monthly change in February, with prices swelling by 1 percent. Minneapolis prices fell by 3.1 percent, and San Francisco values dropped 2.6 percent in February, compared with January, marking the steepest month-to-month declines.

David M. Blitzer, chairman of the S&P index committee, saw less to be hopeful about in the current numbers. He said the 20-city index is “within a hair’s breadth of a double dip,’’ meaning prices may fall lower than the lows of 2009.

“Recent data on existing home sales, housing starts, foreclosure activity, and employment confirm that we are still in a slow recovery,’’ Blitzer said. “There is very little, if any, good news about housing.’’

Jenifer B. McKim can be reached at jmckim@globe.com.