Home Prices Fell in January in Most U.S. Cities

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WASHINGTON -- The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index released Tuesday showed that prices dropped in January from December in 16 of 19 cities tracked.

The steepest declines were in San Francisco, Atlanta and Portland. Prices increased in Miami, Phoenix and Washington. Price information for Charlotte was delayed and therefore not included in the report.

The declines partly reflect typical offseason sales. The month-over-month data are not adjusted for seasonal factors.

Still, prices fell in 17 of the 20 cities in January compared to the same month in 2011. The group's nationwide index of prices has fallen 34 percent since the housing bust and is now at 2002 levels.

The continued drop in prices suggests the housing market remains weak, even after the best winter for home sales in five years and steady improvement in the job market.

"Despite some positive economic signs, home prices continued to drop," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of S&P's index committee.

Eight cities -- Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa, Fla. -- are now back at 2000 levels or earlier. Only Denver, Detroit and Phoenix posted year-over-year increases.

Analysts were quick to note that prices are expected to rise modestly throughout much of 2012.

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Home Prices Fell in January in Most U.S. Cities

Recent reports on the housing market suggest that real estate prices may finally be close to hitting bottom, with at least one expert predicting that national median prices will tick up this year for the first time since the housing bust. 

For some towns, price recoveries have been in the works for some time. Florida, in particular, lays claim to quite a few markets that appear to be firing on all cylinders, and posting the price gains to show for it.

With the help of our friends at Realtor.com, AOL Real Estate brings you homes from the metro areas that posted the greatest year-over-year median price increases in February, as measured by Realtor.com listings. If a national price recovery is happening, these are some of the towns leading the charge. 

Location: Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.
Median Price Increase: 14.47 percent

Home Price: $5.479 million
Beds/Baths: 5/7
Sq. Ft.: 5,286

This home, apparently recognized as a local architectural achievement, uses the material terrazzo, a combination of granite or marble and concrete, for its indoor and outdoor flooring. 

See the listing for more details

Highlights of the home include its gourmet kitchen, master bedroom, master bath, entertainment areas, office and exercise space. Need we mention the views? 

See the listing for more details

Location: Daytona Beach, Fla. 
Median Price Increase: 15.56 percent

Home Price: $7.7 million
Beds/Baths: 4/10
Sq. Ft.: 13,654

Commanding a long, lavishly-landscaped driveway, this "new traditional" epitomizes the "good life" in Daytona Beach. 

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The gated home has its own dock and and a generous stretch of waterfront.

See the listing for more details

Location: Fort Myers-Cape Coral, Fla. 
Median Price Increase: 15.59 percent

Home Price: $8.7 million
Beds/Baths: 6/13
Sq. Ft.: 13,723

This home is a behemoth. But while it may stretch 13,723 square feet, you're never far from a bathroom. There are 13. 

See the listing for more details

The home is steeped in luxury inside and out. Exhibit A: a nine-car garage. 

See the listing for more details

Location: Naples, Fla. 
Median Price Increase: 15.67 percent

Home Price: $11.95 million
Beds/Baths: 5/8
Sq. Ft.: 7,890

She's not hard to look at, is she? One of the many things this mouth-watering residence has going for it is its gigantic, resort-style pool. The home also has 127 feet of waterfront, and its many columns, inside and out, give the place regal flair. 

See the listing for more details

As far as amenities, we say the theater room and library top the list. 

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Location: Boise City, Idaho
Median Price Increase: 16.28 percent

Home Price: $1.25 million
Beds/Baths: 4/6
Sq. Ft.: 6,984

Sitting on a hilltop perch, this sprawling log-built home commands five acres of woodsy Boise real estate. 

See the listing for more details

The place is brimming with interior detail, including cherry floors, built-in cabinets and sound system, "forged-nickel hardware" and crystal chandeliers. 

See the listing for more details

Location: Washington, D.C.
Median Price Increase: 18.45 percent 

Home Price: $7.495 million
Beds/Baths: 6/8
Sq. Ft.: 9,710

Throw down for this stately manse and you'll win the right to call Joe Biden neighbor. Vicey himself lives in the neighborhood. The Tudor-style home has 17-inch stone walls that are stitched with timber and brick. 

See the listing for more details, or see AOL Real Estate's full profile on the home

The home's interior has ebony-stained floors, and amenities include a library, breakfast room, great room, "executive kitchen," gymnasium and au pair room. 

See the listing for more details

Location: West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, Fla. 
Median Price Increase: 18.48 percent

Home Price: $3.4 million
Beds/Baths: 6/7
Sq. Ft.: 7,043

This lavish mansion boasts membership in Harbour Isles, a ritzy, secluded community. In fact, ever single home has a dock, according to the listing. The 7,000-square-foot home has over 90 feet of waterfront for itself. 

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Pictured here is the home's columned patio that offers soul-soothing river views. 

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Location: Punta Gorda, Fla. 
Median Price Increase: 19.35 percent

Home Price: $1.15 million
Beds/Baths: 3/2
Sq. Ft.: 3,950

Overlooking a stretch of creek, this luxury property spans four verdant acres. Of all the interior highlights, the great room really caught our eye, thanks to some creative copy on the part of the property's listing description. Inside the cavernous room, the "Built in Wood/Gas Fireplace is perfect for snuggling on [the] occasional cool Florida evening," the description says.  

See the listing for more details

The home has a gourmet kitchen with cherry cabinets, marble countertops, dual ovens and its very own "butcher block." There's also a glass-enclosed pool that overlooks the property's creek. 

See the listing for more details

Location: Phoenix-Mesa, Ariz. 
Median Price Increase: 20.62 percent

Home Price: $4 million
Beds/Baths: 6/8
Sq. Ft.: 9,309

Located in the city that posted the second-highest year-over-year increase in home prices for February, according to Realtor.com, this $4 million mansion features marble and oak floors, beveled glass windows and custom cabinetry. Oh, and also close to 10,000 square feet of space. 

See the listing for more details

The home has a guest house and expansive courtyard connected to the gourmet kitchen. Amenities run the gamut: The home has a game room, wine cellar, music room and potting room, among other perks.  

See the listing for more details

Location: Miami
Median Price Increase: 26.19 percent

Home Price: $7.7 million
Beds/Baths: 6/7
Sq. Ft.: 6,500

This sprawling apartment nestles into one of Miami's soaring residential skyscrapers. Price per square foot for the contemporary is a whopping $1,185. 

See the listing for more details

The sleek, lavish interior opens up to a balcony perched over Miami's waterfront. Occupants can suck in the jaw-dropping views while lounging in an outdoor hottub. 

See the listing for more details

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"It's going to be tempting to look at home price declines and see a still-faltering housing recovery, but that's just not the case," said Stan Humphries, chief economist for housing website Zillow.com. "The reality is that home prices and home sales will be moving" higher.

The Case-Shiller monthly index covers half of all U.S. homes. It measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The January data are the latest available.

Some economists say sales increases could stop prices from falling further by early spring. Home prices tend to follow sales by about six months. When sales rise, prices rise, too, and an increase in prices would likely create a positive cycle.

Homes are the most affordable they've been in decades. And mortgage rates are just above record lows.

The job market is also getting stronger. The economy has added an average of 245,000 jobs per month from December through February. The unemployment rate has fallen to 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years.

Conditions are improving for those in position to buy a home. Still, many people can't afford to buy or are unable to qualify for mortgage. Some people in position to buy are holding off, worried that prices could fall even further.

The biggest reason why prices are still falling is foreclosures, which are still high across the country. Foreclosures and short sales -- when a lender accepts less for a home than what is owed on a mortgage -- are selling at an average discount of 20 percent.

Foreclosure activity surged in February across half of U.S. states. The pace of foreclosures is increasing after all 50 U.S. states reached a $25 billion settlement last month with the nation's five biggest mortgage lenders over foreclosure abuses. Many foreclosures had been stuck in limbo as the 16-month government investigation into foreclosure paperwork problems dragged on.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

See also:
First-Time Homebuyer's Guide

How to Shop for Your First Home

How to Price a Home to Sell Fas


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