WASHINGTON -- Home prices
rose for a fourth straight month in most major U.S. cities in July, buoyed by seasonal buying. But the housing
market remains depressed, and prices are expected to decline in the coming months.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index released Tuesday showed home prices
increased in July from June in 17 of the 20 cities tracked.
posted the biggest monthly percentage gains. Prices fell in two cities among those hit hardest by the housing crisis
-- Las Vegas
. The index, which covers half of all U.S. homes, measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The July data are the latest available. Click through the gallery below to see the latest Case-Shiller numbers:
Analysts cautioned that the price increases are temporary and not evidence of a housing recovery. Home sales
have declined in each of the months in which prices rose.
Prices are expected to drop again this fall and winter, based on the poor sales and on expectations that banks will resume processing a raft of foreclosures
that have been in limbo.
'Far From a Sustained Recovery"
"This is still a seasonal period of stronger demand for houses, so monthly price increases are expected," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of Standard & Poor's index committee. "While we have now seen four consecutive months of generally increasing prices, we do know that we are still far from a sustained recovery."
Over the past 12 months, prices have fallen in all but two cities: Detroit
and Washington, D.C.
In Detroit, prices have risen 1.2 percent. Its housing market has been among the nation's worst over the past decade. In July, homes prices there equaled 1995 levels.
"In some cities, prices are so undervalued they are not likely to fall further," said Patrick Newport, U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight. "Detroit, which largely avoided a run-up in prices but still saw prices collapse, may be a case in point."
Washington, conversely, has had the nation's best housing market. Home
prices in the nation's capital have increased 0.3 percent in those 12 months, and were equal to 2004 levels in July.
Housing is a key reason the economy has continued to struggle more than two years after the recession officially ended.
, larger required down payments and tighter credit
are preventing many buyers from entering the market. Many who could afford to buy are waiting because they are worried that the U.S. could fall back into another recession and prices could fall further.
Previously occupied homes are selling only slightly faster than last year, when sales were the lowest since 1997.
Expecting a Dip, Not a Collapse
dropped in August for a fourth straight month. This year is shaping up to be the worst for sales of new homes since record-keeping began in 1963.
And home prices are certain to fall further once banks resume millions of foreclosures that have been delayed because of a 10-month government investigation into mortgage lending practices.
"This effect (of spring buying) will fade soon because sales have dropped back in recent months," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist for High Frequency Economics. "We expect to see price declines again by the autumn, but we do not anticipate a renewed collapse" in the housing market.
Home Sellers Step In Where Banks Fear to Tread
Homebuyers Remain on the Sidelines
New Home Sales Tumble to Six-Month Low
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