Integrated Asset Services’ (IAS) monthly IAS360 House Price Index declined 0.7% from November to December, the Denver-based default management and residential collateral valuations firm said, adding prices are at mid-2004 levels. That’s a bigger drop than the month-over-month declines the index experienced in November (0.3%), October (0.5%) and September (0.6%). The index is a county-level measure of median sales price of single-family residences in five US Census Bureau regions, nine Census divisions and 360 counties. After five months of declines, the index is now 5.3% below its 2008 level. In 2008, the index declined 11.7% from its 2007 level. The index is now at a level last seen in mid-2004, IAS said. “There’s something to be said for the fact that the decline has at least slowed,” said IAS president and CEO Dave McCarthy. “But I still think the risk of continued weakening in house prices nationally is considerable.” McCarthy said the impending end of the homebuyer tax credit could come as a new wave of distressed properties enter the marketplace, possibly creating a pronounced “double dip” in home prices. In November, the tax credit was expanded to include certain existing homebuyers and extended into the spring. “The potential for another wave of distressed property coming to market remains very high,” McCarthy said. “While the government's mortgage modification program may have slowed the number of foreclosed properties coming to market, its near complete failure is likely to result in a whole new wave of distressed activity down the road.” Some experts have predicted the tax credit could be extended if housing remains unstable this summer. Regionally, the South experienced a 2.3% gain in prices in December, led by increases of more than 10% in Alabama and Georgia. The biggest decline was in the Midwest, where prices dropped 4.2%. Prices in the Midwest are now at late 2003 levels. The Northeast fell for the fourth month in a row, down 1.7% in December. Prices in the West also dropped 1%. The complete IAS360 December report is available online. Write to Austin Kilgore.