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Q2 Home Prices Up, Still Lag Behind 2010

Home prices crept forward over the second quarter this year but failed to march to the same beat as prices over the same period last year, according to ""Standard & Poor's"":http://www.standardandpoors.com/home/en/us / ""Case-Shiller Home Price Indices"":http://www.standardandpoors.com/servlet/BlobServer?blobheadername3=MDT-Type&blobcol=urldocumentfile&blobtable=SPComSecureDocument&blobheadervalue2=inline%3B+filename%3Ddownload.pdf&blobheadername2=Content-Disposition&blobheadervalue1=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobheadername1=content-type&blobwhere=1245318537156&blobheadervalue3=abinary%3B+charset%3DUTF-8&blobnocache=true, which the ratings agency released Tuesday. The numbers reflect a still-stagnant housing economy that continues to wobble on chronically low demand, unsure consumers, and a lending crunch for otherwise creditworthy homebuyers.

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S&P indices revealed continuing steps down for second-quarter home prices, which showed a steady 5.9-percent annual decline since the same period over 2010. The small uptick occurred at a rate of 3.6 percent, recovering from a 4.1-percent dip over the first quarter this year.

Of the 20 cities covered by the indices, twelve saw home-price upshots for the third consecutive month, cresting on a seasonal push by homebuyers as the fall approaches. Notably, cities across California as well as Dallas, Denver, and the nation's Capitol posted gains.

Even the hardest-hit markets, Detroit and Las Vegas among them, saw home prices climb slightly, albeit it nowhere near the signs of life seen over the first half of 2010 when first-time and repeat homebuyers benefited from federal homebuyer tax credits.

What can Americans take away from the mixed news for home prices?

""We're slowly pulling out of the horrendous housing bust but we're not out of it yet, unfortunately,"" David Blitzer, chairman of S&P's indices, tells _MReport_.

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He attributes the second-quarter silver lining to ""the seasons as much as anything else,"" describing the second quarter as ""typically a strong timeframe for home prices"" nationally.

""This is a time of year when people look for houses and buy houses because they want to be settled in their houses over the fall,"" he says. He adds that ""housing still remains stuck in the doldrums and very weak.""

Blitzer says that a foreclosure glut, tight credit, and wary consumers continue to hold back a return to normalcy for home prices.

""If you're in a neighborhood that suffers from a lot of foreclosures, it has a lot of impact,"" he says. He goes on to describe ""a little bit of easing, but not a whole lot"" for underwriting standards and lending practices.

""Banks aren't willing to lend as much,"" he says, denoting a strict loan-to-value ratio upheld by some lenders.

Blitzer also cites a ""Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index"":http://www.conference-board.org/data/consumerconfidence.cfm, also released Tuesday, which found a decline in consumer confidence from 59.2 over July to 44.5 in August on a 100-digit scale. Tellingly, consumer expectations for the job market hit a snag, as more Americans said that it was difficult to find employment in a distressed economy.

A U.S. Housing Data Response published by ""Capital Economics"":http://www.capitaleconomics.com/ offered less praise for second-quarter home prices and forecasted more declines, which it said would happen as a result of continuing delays in foreclosure court proceedings, ebbing consumer confidence, and weak employment figures.

""Once prices do reach a floor, there is not going to be a rapid rebound,"" Paul Dales, a senior U.S. economist with the firm, wrote in the report. ""[H]alf of all homeowners are unable to move because they cannot get a new loan.""

He faulted ongoing economic malaise, citing a quarter of homeowners with underwater mortgages and others lacking the positive-equity chops to qualify for new loans.

""These factors will constrain demand for years, meaning that any recovery will be as weak at those in the US [sic] and the UK in the 1990s,"" Dales wrote. ""In short, even if prices have stopped falling, they probably won't rise significantly in 2012 or 2013.""

About Author: Ryan Schuette

Ryan Schuette is a journalist, cartoonist, and social entrepreneur with several years of experience in real-estate news, international reporting, and business management. He currently lives in the Washington, D.C., area, where he freelances for DS News and MReport.
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