U.S. home prices down in 3rd quarter

Saturday, November 27, 2010

U.S. home prices fell 3.2 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier as demand weakened without federal tax credits, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said this week.

The Atlanta area led in declines among the 25 largest metropolitan regions, with a 10 percent slump, the agency said in a statement. Prices rose 4.6 percent in the San Diego area for the biggest gain, according to the agency, which measures sales of homes with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Prices fell in 40 states in the third quarter from a year earlier, led by Idaho, Georgia, Arizona, Oregon and South Carolina, the agency said. Ten states and the District of Columbia had gains.

The District claims the top ranking on the agency's state-by-state list of annual price appreciation, with 5.29 percent growth since the third quarter of last year. For the third quarter, seasonally adjusted appreciation was 6.8 percent greater than in the previous quarter.

Virginia, ranked 12th for annual appreciation with a 0.5 percent decline, registered a 0.8 percent decline in the third quarter. Maryland, ranked 41st, logged a 5 percent annual decline and a 3.7 percent decline for the quarter.

The agency's report is based on sales data comparing prices of the same properties over time. The sample does not include refinancings or homes with jumbo mortgages greater than Fannie and Freddie's conforming loan limit of $729,750.

The national price index dropped 0.7 percent in September from August. Prices from July to August, previously reported as a 0.4 percent increase, were revised to unchanged.

Home sales fell to record-low levels after the April 30 expiration of a tax credit of as much as $8,000 for buyers. An overhang of distressed properties and an unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent will probably cause more price declines, according to Celia Chen, an analyst with Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pa.

"Our overall expectations for home prices is that they'll drop by another 8 percent by the third quarter of next year," she said in a telephone interview before the federal report was released.

Measured from June 30, prices fell 1.6 percent, the federal agency said. Economists had projected prices would decrease 1.1 percent, according to the average of 15 estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

The federal data do not reflect the impact of a foreclosure freeze by loan servicers including Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase, which suspended the seizure and resale of many delinquent homes starting in September to investigate allegations they used faulty paperwork. Existing-home sales sank 2.2 percent in October as the moratoriums disrupted the market, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.

The median price of an existing home was $170,500 in October, down 0.6 percent from September and 0.9 percent from a year earlier, the group said.

- Staff and news service reports

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