National home prices for the four-month period ending in March fell 1.4% from the same period last year even as key regions reported mild price gains, according to Clear Capital's Home Data Index Market Report.
The research firm projects modest price gains for the rest of 2012, with 1.2% price growth possible by the end of the year.
Clear Capital said prices for the four-month period ending in March declined a slight 0.2% from the previous three-month period ending in November.
Truckee, Calif.-based Clear Capital uses rolling quarters to study home prices. The most recent data for March is an analysis of prices for the December-through-March period. It compares the most recent four months to the previous three months to give users a more timely look at market prices.
"With the exception of the Midwest, positive growth in rolling quarter-over-quarter prices is an encouraging sign that markets are rebounding from the winter slow down earlier than usual," said Dr. Alex Villacorta, director of research and analytics at Clear Capital. "Even with the relatively modest declines seen over the last few months, markets have continued to show signs of bottoming out. The projections we made at the beginning of the year are playing out, and we expect to see the nation gain just over 1% through the year's end."
The West, South and Northeast posted price gains just under 1% for the March period, while the Midwest continued to feel the effects of home-price devaluation with prices falling 2.4% quarter-over-quarter in the region.
Another positive sign outlined by Clear Capital is the fact REO saturation is climbing in regions across the country, but, despite that increase, new distressed inventory on the market has yet to plunge prices deeper in the West, Northeast and South.
Clear Capital calls this trend a surprising "indirect relationship" with REO saturation having no significant pressure on home prices. The study, which tracks 50 metropolitan statistical areas, said 30 markets will see price gains by the end of the year, with the remaining 20 possibly facing losses.