US house price trends. A national market bottom?

Home Prices Fall Again –

“Home prices fell to new lows in January, but the rate of decline appeared to be easing, offering the latest hint that prices may be at or near a bottom.”

 Photo: AP

“Prices dropped 0.8% in the three-month period that ended in January, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index that tracks 20 U.S. metro areas.”

Later in the article is an important point.

“The Case-Shiller index trails the housing market considerably. It reports sales contracts that were recorded for a three-month period that ended in January, which means it reflects sales activity from the autumn of 2011.”

“More recent indexes have reported modest stabilization for home prices.”

The market overhang appears significant. The article reports:

“Housing markets face significant headwinds. Nearly 11 million homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their houses or apartments are worth, and more than one million homes could sell out of foreclosure this year, putting pressure on prices. Credit standards are tight and show few signs of easing, leaving housing markets with fewer buyers at a time when more will be needed to soak up the excess supply.”

At the same time a different article makes the point that housing markets where employment is good to strong show very different trends compared to markets where the employment trends are weak. Phoenix, at one time in the top three cities for foreclosures, is now showing rising prices.