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Clear Capital home prices end up 4.1% lower in 2010, more declines ahead

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U.S. home prices were turbulent through 2010 ending up 4.1% lower than the year before, according to analytics firm Clear Capital. And prices are expected to fall another 3.6% over 2011. The homebuyer tax credit proved an artificial boost to home prices, which tapered off nearly as soon as it expired in April. The period immediately after created probably the most volatile year of home prices in history, the report claims. Values declined 5.3% over the first 12 weeks of the year, only to spike 9.7% through mid August. But when the market left the summer months, prices dipped right back down another 9.4%. "In terms of home prices, this past year has certainly been characterized by uncertainty,” Alex Villacorta, senior statistician at Clear Capital, said. "Tax incentives and high levels of distressed sale activity had counter effects on home prices which contributed to the fragility of the markets." At least the decline in 2011 will be a smooth one. "The wild spikes experienced in 2010 will likely be replaced with more gradual price trends this year. Price forecasts show varying levels of decline across all four regions in 2011, with local markets in the West expected to accumulate the largest overall losses," according to the Clear Capital report. Prices fell in 70% of the major markets in the U.S, and half experienced double-digit drops. Those were Dayton and Columbus, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wisc.; Tucson, Ariz.; and New Haven, Connecticut; Jacksonville, Fla.; Virginia Beach and Richmond, Va. In Dayton, prices fell more than 22% from the year before. 2011 doesn't look much better for these markets. Clear Capital expects all but Columbus and Milwaukee to experience double-digit declines again. But some markets such as Washington, D.C. and Houston, Texas are expected to see brighter improvements. Write to Jon Prior.

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