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RISMEDIA, April 2, 2009-While the new year is a time for many to start over, a report released yesterday on U.S. housing prices may encourage many to start house shopping. Prices of single-family homes in the U.S. dropped a drastic 19% for the year from January 2008 through January 2009, according to Standard & Poor’s S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, one of the leading measures of U.S. home prices.

According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, 13 out of the 20 metro areas across the U.S. saw record rates of annual decline, while 14 areas reported declines in excess of 10%, compared with the rates in January 2008. Following the lead of the 14 metro areas, the 10-City Composite and the 20-City Composite also set new records, with annual declines of 19.4% and 19.0% respectively.

“Home prices, which peaked in mid-2006, continued their decline in 2009,” says David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index committee at Standard and Poor’s. “There are very few bright spots that one can see in the data. Most of the nation appears to remain on a downward path, with all of the 20 metro areas reporting annual declines, and nine of the MSA’s falling more than 20 percent in the last year. Indeed, the two composites are very close to that rate and have been reporting consecutive annual declines since October 2007. The monthly data follows a similar trend, with the 10-City and 20-City Composite showing thirty consecutive months of negative returns.”

As of January 2009, average home prices across the U.S. are at similar levels to what they were in late 2003. From the peak in the second quarter of 2006, the 10-City Composite is down 30.2% and the 20-City Composite is down 29.1%.

While all 20 metro areas reported negative monthly and annual rates of change in average home prices, seven metro areas and the 20-City Composite recorded a record monthly decline in January. Seven metro areas reported declines in excess of 4% in January, with Phoenix leading at -5.5%. On a somewhat positive note, Cleveland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas reported a relative improvement in home prices in year-over-year returns, in terms of lesser rates of decline than the previous month’s values.

In terms of annual declines, the three worst performing cities are Phoenix (down 35%), Las Vegas (down 32.5%) and San Francisco (down 32.4%), while Dallas, Denver and Cleveland had the best results in terms of annual decline: 4.9%, 5.1% and 5.2%, respectively.

Looking at the data from peak-thru-January 2009, Dallas is the least hurt (down 10.8%), while Phoenix is down 48.5% from its peak in June 2006. The rate of decline from the individual heights of each marketplace show how much each market has taken back in terms of the gains they earned within the past 10-15 years. All 20 metro areas are in double digit declines from their peaks, with nine of the MSA’s reporting declines greater than 30% and five of those (Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Diego) in excess of 40%.

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