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Home Prices Continue Downward Drift; Sales Drop Too

A sign of the times, last year in Tigard, Ore.
Don Ryan

"Broadly-speaking, home prices continued to decline in the early months of the year," according to economist David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices.

His statement came with this month's S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices report, which showed "annual declines of 3.6 percent and 3.5 percent" in February for its 10-city and 20-city composite price indexes.

The one ray of sunshine in the report: in 15 of 20 cities the annual results, while not positive, at least weren't as weak as in January.

As The Associated Press adds, "the steepest declines were in Atlanta, Chicago and Cleveland. Prices rose in Phoenix, San Diego and Miami. They were unchanged in Dallas." And, "prices in nine cities fell to their lowest levels since the housing bust. The average price in Atlanta fell 17.3 percent in February compared with a year earlier. That's the biggest annual drop in the history of the index for any city."

Foreclosures continue to keep prices down. According to the AP:

"Stan Humphries, chief economist for housing website Zillow.com, attributed the declines in part to heavy sales of foreclosed homes, which are usually sold at super-low prices. Foreclosures made up about one-fifth of February's sales."

Update at 10:15 a.m. ET. Sales Of New Homes Fell Last Month:

Sales of new single-family homes fell 7.1 percent in March from February," the Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development just reported. It was the biggest one-month decline in more than a year, the AP says. Still, sales were up 7.5 percent from March 2011.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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