A key gauge of home prices in the nation's largest cities fell in December to its lowest level since the start of the housing crisis in mid-2006.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index of 20 American cities fell 1.1% from November to December and 4% from December 2010. Eighteen out of the 20 cities tracked by the index posted declines and Atlanta, Las Vegas, Seattle and Tampa,Fla., each saw average home prices hit new lows.
“In terms of prices, the housing market ended 2011 on a very disappointing note,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Indices. “While we thought we saw some signs of stabilization in the middle of 2011, it appears that neither the economy nor consumer confidence was strong enough to move the market in a positive direction as the year ended."
In December, Miami and Phoenix were the only two metro areas that posted monthly gains, up 0.2% and 0.8%, respectively.
A separate, national index published quarterly by S&P Case Shiller, also released Tuesday, showed deterioration in home values. The national composite fell by 3.8% during the fourth quarter of 2011 and was down 4.0% versus the fourth quarter of 2010.
The steep drops indicate that the housing market likely began 2012 in decline, as the broader economic recovery was not enough to lift home values. Home prices are now below their low hit in April 2009 -- reached during the depths of the financial crisis.
“We are in a situation where a lot of people think, long-term, this is great, home prices are low,” Shiller said. “But somehow they think in the short-run … we are still in a holding pattern.”
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