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Housing Crash 2.0 Is Accelerating

Home prices continuing to drop.
AP
Home prices continuing to drop.

House prices are falling again—and the decline is accelerating.

Today’s big housing numbers comes from the Case-Shiller home price indexes. The indexes, which measure how prices have changed over the previous three months, show prices falling in every major metropolitan area (except, weirdly, Detroit). The 20-city average declined 3.3 percent from a year ago, and 1.1 percent from the previous three-month average.

This is the seventh successive month of widespread price declines.

The housing recovery began to stall last spring, after the government’s home-buyer tax credit expired. The three-month moving average of the Case-Shiller 20-city index showed that gains in home pricing slowing to a crawl in early summer and actually reversing in July and August. By September, it was clear that home prices were going into a serious decline.

The November numbers (which are actually the three-month average of September, October and November) showed a 1 percent decline over the previous month. Prices kept dropping by 1 percent in December and January.

February’s data shows that the decline is actually accelerating a bit.

This is the opposite of a recovery—it’s a crash building steam.

We’ve become almost passé about home price declines. A 3.3 percent year-over-year decline doesn’t seem all that shocking anymore. But prior to the recent housing crash, such a steep decline was unheard of.

The housing market is performing much worse than expected. In 2009, the Mortgage Bankers Association predict home prices would rise by 3 percent in 2011. Last year, the consensus among economists interviewed for the MacroMarkets LLC September survey was that home prices would fall by just 0.8 percent in 2011. A month ago, the economists were gloomier, estimating that housing prices would fall 1.38 percent by the end of the year. That estimate now looks overly optimistic.

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