Although the headlines in the March numbers — two composites and national index flat or down at new lows — were disappointing, some of the city by city detail was encouraging. The chart below shows the number of cities reporting prices lower than a year ago since the markets peaked in mid-2006. From the market peak the number with falling prices climbed rapidly to all 20 cities. This was interrupted in 2009-2010 by the first time home buyers tax credit program. As that momentary benefit passed, prices resumed falling and the number of cities showing weakness climbed back to 20. Recently, we have seen another improvement as fewer cities in the last few months report prices down over the last year. This time there is no artificial boost from taxes, but only time will tell if the gains will be sustained.
The broader picture can be seen in the table of all 20 cities and their peaks and troughs. While housing is not out of the woods yet, there are some positive signs and fewer new all-time lows. Seven cities — including all three in California — are over a year past their record lows and two more are 11 months from their lows.