US Home Prices Plunged At Record Pace Last Year


The collapse in U.S. home prices accelerated to a record pace in the fourth quarter of 2007, with prices plunging 8.9 percent last year, according to a national home price index released on Tuesday.

The quarterly drop in prices of existing single-family homes quickened to 5.4 percent in the final three months of last year from a 1.8 percent drop in the third quarter, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, Standard & Poor's said in a statement.

The 8.9 percent year-over-year decline was the largest in the 20-year history of the index, as housing was pressured lower by a huge supply of homes for sale, rising foreclosures and tighter lending conditions.

By comparison, during the 1990-91 housing recession the annual rate bottomed at a 2.8 percent drop.

The composite index of 10 of the largest metropolitan areas fell 2.3 percent in December versus November and tumbled 9.8 percent year-over-year, which set a new record.

The composite index for 20 metropolitan areas fell 2.1 percent in December from November and sank 9.1 percent year-over-year.

"We reached a somber year-end for the housing market in 2007," Robert Shiller, professor at Yale University and chief economist at MacroMarkets LLC, said in the statement.

Shiller, co-developer of Standard and Poor's S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, said home prices across the nation and in most metro areas are significantly lower than where they were a year ago.

"Wherever you look things look bleak, with 17 of the 20 metro areas reporting annual declines and the remaining three reporting flat or moderate growth rates," he said.

Furthermore, 14 of the metro areas reported record low growth rates and eight showed a double-digit decline.

"The monthly data paint a similar picture, with all metro areas now reporting at least four consecutive negative monthly returns," Shiller said.

Miami, remained the weakest market, reporting a double-digit annual decline of 17.5 percent, followed by Las Vegas and Phoenix at a 15.3 percent drop each. The three cities boasted of some of fastest rising home prices in 2006.

San Francisco, another once-frothy market, in December slipped into negative double-digit territory with an annual decline of 10.8 percent.

Charlotte, North Carolina, Portland, Oregon and Seattle were the only three metropolitan in the indexes where prices rose in 2007. Seattle, however, came in at only 0.5 percent, an almost flat growth rate.