Greater clarity this morning on local housing prices: The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Prices Indices reports that Boston-area prices dropped 4.6 percent in February. It is the 23rd straight month of year-over-year declines in the index, which has now dropped 12 percent from its peak in September 2005.
Case-Shiller lags the reports from Warren Group and the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, both of which released March data yesterday. But Case-Shiller is more reliable because it is based on repeat sales of the same homes, eliminating any bias caused by a change in the kinds of homes that are selling.
Warren Group reported February sales fell by 9 percent. Case-Shiller says 4.6 percent. The implication is that about half the decline reported by the Warren Group is the result of relatively more sales of lower-priced homes -- and about half is the result of a decline in the sales value of all homes.
(Warren Group yesterday reported an even larger 11 percent decline in March sales prices. It will be another month before we have the Case-Shiller data to help parse those numbers.)
This is the steepest year-over-year decline in the Boston Case-Shiller index since last March. I wrote last month that the pace of price declines had been under 4 percent for several months. The February data breaks that trend.
The relative bright note is that Boston continues to fare better than most other large metropolitan areas. Only Charlotte, Dallas, Portland and Seattle had smaller declines (or in Charlotte's case, a small increase) in sales prices.
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