Despite market reports of strong median home price appreciation this spring, gains are very uneven and nearly half of homes in 10 of the nation’s largest markets actually lost value in May, according to a report by Weiss Residential Research’s Indexes.

On a house-by-house basis, about one-third fewer homes in the largest markets gained value during the heart of the spring buying season this year compared to last.  

Only 54% of homes in the markets appreciated during May compared to 81% in May 2014, a sign that the downward trend may continue in the coming months. In Denver, the hottest market in the nation, 84% of houses appreciated in May compared to 95% last year. In the Washington, D.C., market, weakest of the top 10, only 34% of houses gained value in May compared to 57% in May 2014.

“Don't be fooled by averages,” said Allan Weiss, founder and CEO of Weiss Residential Research. "All of the largest metro indexes are rising more slowly than they were a year ago, though market reports give the impression that values are rising across the board. However people don’t own the entire market, they own one house.”

Larger homes are having a harder time than smaller homes with two bedrooms or less. In Denver, larger homes appreciated 5.8% on a year-over-year basis in May compared to smaller homes. In Washington, D.C., larger homes actually fell -0.7%. Smaller homes declined less, -0.2% year over year.

In a metro like Washington with a median price increase of 1.2% in the past year according to Case-Shiller, 60% of the houses are rising and the other 40% are stagnant or falling. Since the ones that are appreciating outnumber the ones falling the average is a low positive number, Weiss said.

“The same pattern occurred before the great housing meltdown 10 years ago. The percent of houses rising in D.C. declined from 100% to 60% while the metro index showed a slowdown but did not go negative. Once the population of houses that had been rising fell below 50%, the index began its descent,” Weiss said.

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(Source: Weisss Residential)

“Today, conditions at the local level may not be as positive as national reports indicate. Every house is unique, has a unique value and responds differently to market changes. In today’s market, sellers should price their homes very carefully and research local conditions to avoid overpricing that could lead to an extended time on market in case prices do decline,” Weiss said. 

“In this climate, buyers and investors should be careful to avoid buying a home that is on the verge of losing value,” said Weiss.

Weiss Residential Research tracks value trends at the individual house level for 5500 Zip codes and 100 metro markets.