By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 2:26 PM
Home prices fell again in April, but at a slower rate, suggesting some parts of the housing market could be stabilizing, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index released today.
The closely watched home index found that, nationwide, prices declined 18.1 percent compared with April 2008. That was slower than the 18.7 percent decline seen in March.
"The pace of decline in residential real estate slowed in April," David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor's, said in a statement. "While one month's data cannot determine if a turnaround has begun; it seems that some stabilization may be appearing in some of the regions. We are entering the seasonally strong period in the housing market, so it will take some time to determine if a recovery is really here."
Prices have fallen to levels last seen in the middle of 2003, according to the report, which tracks single-family homes. From its peak in the second quarter of 2006, prices in 20 major metropolitan cities tracked by the index have fallen 33.6 percent.
In the Washington area, prices fell 16.9 percent compared with last year and were down 1.3 percent compared with the previous month. The price declines in the Washington region are not as severe as in other parts of the country, including Las Vegas and Phoenix, which fell 32.2 percent and 35.3 percent, respectively, compared with last year.
Analysts have said prices would continue to fall across the country into 2010 as buyers make their way through the backlog of homes on the market. Although sales have picked up in some of the hardest hit parts of the country, rising foreclosure rates are expected to add to the inventory of distressed homes on the market.
"House prices are no longer in a free-fall, as they were late last year. They are still falling at a steady clip, however," Patrick Newport, an economist for the IHS Global Insight, said in a research note. "Moreover, prices will fall further, since foreclosures are still rising. Indeed, all evidence indicates that the foreclosure problem is getting worse."