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RISMEDIA, May 18, 2010—This quarter brought a mixed bag of results, with some slightly disappointing numbers on a national basis, but some bright spots in several large California markets.

The year-over-year rate of home value depreciation continued to shrink in March 2010, even as home value changes remained negative on a month-over-month basis. The monthly rate of depreciation stayed unchanged from the prior month—click here to see the figure.

Year-over-year change in the Zillow Home Value Index (ZHVI) was -3.8% in March, marking the shallowest change in home values since August 2007, while home values fell 0.3% from their February levels. Rates of monthly depreciation have been relatively flat since January after worsening somewhat in late 2009 (the lowest level of monthly depreciation in recent years was reached in October, -0.21%).

We’d been hoping that we would see depreciation rates trend further toward zero during the first quarter, and the fact that this expectation hasn’t materialized leads us to move our target for a national bottom in home values to the third quarter (previously the target was Q2). Home values declined year-over-year in 106 of the 135 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) tracked by Zillow this quarter.

The number of homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure in March increased to 0.11% from a February level of 0.10%. This is another record in Zillow’s data beginning in 2000. Negative equity remains high with 23.3% of all single family homes with mortgages underwater, up from 21.4% in the fourth quarter.

Five California markets–LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Ventura–continued their streak of slightly positive monthly change. All five of those markets turned positive last April or May, and home value levels at that time may prove to have been the bottom point. The markets have experienced between 3.1-3.9% appreciation in home values since their low points last year, but sustained total drops in home values of 30-36% between their market peaks and their low point last year. See figure here.

We have no real change in near-term expectations: foreclosures, negative equity, and side-lined sellers getting back into the market now will keep supply up and upward price pressure at a minimum. An L-shaped recovery with little price appreciation is getting closer, but we still expect to see a few more months of sustained decline. After that, expect small changes in home values up and down from month to month.

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