February home prices stabilize as market readies for spring: FNC
Home prices remained relatively stable in February, according to FNC's Residential Price Index, which could be a positive sign for the home buying season yet to come. The national price index decreased just 0.7% between January and February, but remain 5.3% below the same period of last year. FNC's 30-city composite index fell 0.3% compared to the previous month and 5.8% compared to the previous year. The Oxford, Miss.-based firm also releases a 10-city index every month, which increased 0.3% in February over January and came in 4.6% below the price in February 2010. "Normally, home prices in February tend to exhibit relatively large seasonal price movement," the mortgage technology provider said. "The better-than-expected February price seasonality could likely send early signals that the housing market is ready for a gradual rebound as a seasonal uptrend in spring home buying typically occurs." Freddie Mac too is anticipating a strong buying season. According to the agency's most recent economic outlook, collective 2011 home will rise 5% with respect to 2010. However, many are warning that sale inventory must be burned through first. Housing inventory grew 2.3% in March, according Realtor.com, which is powered by the National Association of Realtors. The online marketplace reported that inventory currently sits 9.8% above the level in March 2010. At the same time, the number of households searching for housing is growing, it said. FNC reported that home prices in hardest hit areas are diminishing by the double-digits. In February, Phoenix home sale prices crashed 15.7%, Atlanta prices dipped 14.1% and Orlando prices fell 13.5%. These are areas where RE/MAX is reporting a higher volume of sales. "If sales continue at this pace into the traditional spring and summer buying season, we would expect to see prices follow as well," commented Margaret Kelly, RE/MAX CEO. Write to Christine Ricciardi. Follow her on Twitter @HWnewbieCR.