Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Home prices near 2009 lows -- and may fall more

By Les Christie, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Home prices took a big hit at the end of 2010, even as the rest of the economy gained steam.

National home prices fell 4.1% during the last three months of 2010, compared with 12 months earlier, according to the latest report from the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index, a closely watched indicator of market trends. They were down 1.9% compared with three months earlier.

"Despite improvements in the overall economy, housing continues to drift lower and weaker," said David Blitzer, spokesman for S&P.

And things may get a lot worse, said Robert Shiller, a Yale economist and half of the Case-Shiller team, in a web conference after the report's release.

"There's a substantial risk of home prices falling another 15%, 20% or 25% more," he said.

Shiller cited a few reasons for his bearish stance. The government is expected to reduce the presence of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the housing market. These agencies currently provide loan guarantees for about two-thirds of mortgages. If they fade away, private mortgage money will have to fill the gap and the cost of mortgage borrowing will surely rise. That will hurt home prices.

There's also talk of possibly ending the mortgage interest tax deduction for many homeowners. Meanwhile, the weak economic recovery may be threatened by higher oil prices as a result of turmoil in the Mideast.

At the web conference, Shiller's index partner Karl Case wasn't much more optimistic.

"I see [the market] bouncing along the bottom with a slight negative trend," said Case, an economics professor emeritus at Wellesley College.

A widespread drop

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the national index surpassed the low it hit in the first quarter of 2009.

The decline was widespread, with 18 of the 20 large cities covered by a separate S&P/Case-Shiller index recording losses for the year. The only gains were posted by Washington, which was up 4.1%, and San Diego, which saw prices climb 1.7%.

The biggest loser for the year was Detroit, where prices dropped 9.1%.

"We're really close to being at the bottom again," said S&P's Maureen Maitland. "Last year's gains came courtesy of the tax incentives and the market is not holding up on its own."

The impact of homebuyer tax credits ended back last spring, and the two quarters of data since then reflect that. Prices fell steeply during the third quarter, down 3.3%. When the credit was in effect, prices rose consistently, up four out of five quarters starting in the second quarter of 2009.

S&P reported that both the company's 10- and 20-city indexes also fell month over month. In three cities, Detroit, Cleveland and Las Vegas, home prices have dropped below their January 2000 levels -- yes, you'd have to go back to the past millennium to find lower prices there.

Eleven markets, including New York and Chicago, have reached their lowest levels since home prices peaked in 2006 and 2007.

The losses were not unexpected, according to Brad Hunter, chief economist for Metrostudy, a housing market research firm.

"It's clear now that, going back to last fall, the apparent strength was a false strength," he said. "Now that the tax credits are gone, we're back to where the training wheels are off, to normal consumer demand."

He expects home prices to decline gradually throughout 2011, with markets picking up only when hiring increases substantially. To top of page


Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.90%4.01%
15 yr fixed3.01%3.13%
5/1 ARM3.19%3.26%
30 yr refi3.98%4.12%
15 yr refi3.08%3.23%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
  • Find Homes for sale
    Real estate and homes for sale on Trulia

  • Property Type
  • Find a home in: New York | Atlanta | Chicago | Los Angeles
  • Washington D.C | Houston | Philadelphia | More options
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,689.86 -56.12 -0.32%
Nasdaq 5,128.28 -0.50 -0.01%
S&P 500 2,103.84 -4.79 -0.23%
Treasuries 2.20 -0.06 -2.78%
Data as of 8:33pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.88 -0.25 -1.38%
Micron Technology In... 18.51 -1.39 -6.98%
Facebook Inc 94.01 -1.20 -1.26%
Apple Inc 121.30 -1.07 -0.87%
Frontier Communicati... 4.72 0.09 1.94%
Data as of Jul 31

Sections

Some families are outraged at the sums they've been offered by Lufthansa as compensation for the Germanwings plane crash in March which killed 150 people. More

The U.S. economy has had pretty ho-hum start to 2015. But the stage is set for a strong second half of the year. More

Fast-food chains that operate in more than 30 locations nationwide are the sole target of a new rule in New York to hike their minimum wage to $15. But consumers and small business owners, as well as some employees, may be the ones to pay the price. More

You can't blame it on the economy anymore. More Millennials now have jobs, but are still living at home. More