A Glimmer of Hope for Home Prices?

Washington-Home price declines are showing signs of easing but it's too early to declare a bottom, according to preliminary figures compiled by First American CoreLogic.

The company last week released an early preview of its November findings, showing that homes declined at a rate of 9.6% in November, compared to 10.4% and 11.2% in October and September, respectively.

"The consistent deceleration over the past two months with November indicating the same trend in price declines is encouraging because it could portend the trough in price declines," said Mark Fleming, chief economist for First American CoreLogic.

But the economist cites continued job layoffs and a huge inventory of unsold homes as major negatives weighing on the housing market. Roughly $2 trillion in home equity has been wiped out over the past year.

California cities continue to lead the pack in terms of price declines, according to the company. Salinas has suffered the most among California cities with values falling by almost 30%.

Towns where prices have actually increased include Binghampton, N.Y. (up 8.93%), Sheboygan, Wis. (up 8.91%), and Florence, Ala. (up 7.63%).

Even though prices might possibly be finding a floor, sales (in terms of units) are still struggling.

New homes sold at an annualized pace of 407,000 units in November, the weakest showing in almost 18 years and further evidence that the housing market is still in distress.

Single-family existing home sales fell 8% in November from October. "The quickly deteriorating conditions in the job market, stock market and consumer confidence in October and November have knocked down home sales to another level," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said.

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