The record descent of U.S. housing prices managed to pick up steam in January, according to a widely-watched housing price index released Tuesday morning. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller housing price indices show that a 10-city composite of the nation’s ten largest metropolitan areas fell a record 11.4 percent on an annual basis during January. A composite of 20 cities posted a similar 10.7 percent decline, S&P said in a press statement.
The table to the right shows performance for each MSA and key index in the Case-Shiller dataset. “Unfortunately it does not look like early 2008 is marking any turnaround in the housing market, after the declining year recorded throughout 2007,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poor’s. “Home prices continue to fall, decelerate and reach record lows across the nation.” Nineteen of the 20 metro areas tracked posted annual drops in housing prices during January, with 16 of those MSAs also posting record low annual growth rates, Blitzer said. The only MSA posting an annual gain during the month was Charlotte, North Carolina — although the monthly data since November has shown a clear negative pricing trend, suggesting it may not be long until every MSA tracked by Case-Shiller is in negative territory. Las Vegas and Miami share the dubious title of the weakest markets in January, reporting double-digit annual declines of 19.3 percent, followed by Phoenix at a decline of 18.2 percent. In January, Washington and Minneapolis slipped into negative double-digit territory with annual losses of 10.9 percent and 10.0 percent, respectively. With so many areas registering double digit losses, lenders and investors alike have become increasingly concerned about so called “walk-aways.” Very few borrowers in recent years in any MSA purchased a home using the traditional 20 percent down — and declines of 10 percent of more on an annual basis are likely to place millions of borrowers into a position where their house is now worth less than the mortgage against it. For more information, visit http://www.standardandpoors.com.