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Broad Stabilization in Second Quarter Metro Area Home Prices with Strong Sales

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RISMEDIA, August 13, 2010—The real estate trend in firming home prices solidified in the second quarter with more metropolitan areas showing increases from a year ago, aided by a surge in home sales driven by the home buyer tax credit, according to the latest survey by the National Association of Realtors. In the second quarter, 100 out of 155 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) had higher median existing single-family home prices in comparison with the second quarter of 2009, including 14 with double-digit increases; two were unchanged and 53 metros showed price declines. In the first quarter of this year, 91 areas had higher prices, while only 26 MSAs experienced annual price gains in the second quarter of 2009.

The national median existing single-family price was $176,900 in the second quarter, up 1.5% from $174,200 in the same period of 2009. The median is where half sold for more and half sold for less. Distressed homes accounted for 32% of second quarter sales, down from 36% a year ago.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the correction in home prices appears to have ended in 2009. “All year we’ve been seeing relatively flat national home prices, which appear to be supported by market fundamentals,” he said. “Prices in some areas remain below replacement construction costs, so even with an elevated supply of existing homes on the market, we don’t expect any consequential movement in home prices for the foreseeable future. Very low inventory of newly built homes will also help to support home values.”

Yun urged caution on interpreting price data. “The median price is influenced by the mix of homes that were sold and do not reflect pure appreciation or depreciation,” he said. “The recorded home prices in many markets were significantly depressed last year because of a large percentage of distressed homes sold at discount. Now as more normal, non-distressed home sales are occurring, the median price in many areas is showing higher values.”

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, rose 9.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.61 million in the second quarter from 5.14 million in the first quarter, and were 17.3% above the 4.78 million-unit pace in the second quarter of 2009.

Sales increased from the first quarter in 44 states and the District of Columbia; 47 states and D.C. had increases over year-ago sales levels.

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of a Tucson, Ariz.-based firm, said record low mortgage interest rates will help cushion a summer slowdown. “As expected, sales are slowing down now that the home buyer tax credit has expired, but record-low mortgage interest rates, along with stable and affordable home prices in most areas, provide opportunities for buyers who weren’t able to take advantage of the credit,” she said.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage was a record low 4.91% in the second quarter, down from 5.00% in the first quarter; it was 5.03% in the second quarter of 2009.

“Job creation will give home buyers more confidence, but the market over the next few months is likely to be below what we would expect for the size of our growing population,” Golder said. “With improving bank balance sheets, credit restrictions should gradually improve—Realtors are a great resource for consumer information on loan availability as well as neighborhood market conditions, which vary widely.”

In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices—covering changes in 55 metro areas—showed the national median existing-condo price was relatively flat at $175,700 in the second quarter, down 0.5% from the second quarter of 2009. Twenty-six metros showed increases in the median condo price from a year ago; the first quarter of 2010 showed 24 metros up, while only four metros saw annual price gains in the second quarter of 2009.

Regionally, the median existing single-family home price in the Northeast declined 3.2% to $238,000 in the second quarter from a year earlier. Existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 14.9% in the second quarter to a level of 980,000 and are 23.6% above the second quarter of 2009.

In the Midwest, the median existing single-family home price increased 1.4% to $148,500 in the second quarter from the second quarter of last year. Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 14.5% in the second quarter to a pace of 1.30 million and are 20.9% above the same period in 2009.

In the South, the median existing single-family home price slipped 2.0% to $155,500 in the second quarter from the second quarter of 2009. Existing-home sales in the South increased 10.9% in the second quarter to an annual rate of 2.10 million and are 18.8% above a year ago.

The median existing single-family home price in the West rose 2.6% to $219,700 in the second quarter from a year ago. Existing-home sales in the West fell 2.6% in the second quarter to an annual rate of 1.23 million but are 7.6% higher than the second quarter of 2009.

For more information, visit www.realtor.org.

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