Home prices across the country were ostensibly flat during the first quarter of 2010 compared with the same quarter a year earlier, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.

According to NAR, the national median existing single-family price was $166,100 for the quarter, down 0.7% from the first quarter 2009 price of $167,300. Distressed homes, which typically sell at a 15% discount compared to the rest of the market, accounted for 36% of first quarter sales, NAR said.

The gains were driven mostly by the Northeast, where median prices were up 9%, and the South, where prices rose 1.1%. The Midwest dropped 0.8% and the West was down 8.3%.

More than half of metro areas, 91 of the 152 measured, showed increases in median prices year-over-year during the quarter, and 29 of those were up in double digits. Three metros were flat and 58 showed declines. Many of the metros with the biggest gains, however, were located in the hardest hit areas of the rust belt, many with median prices below $100,000. This was partly responsible for the gains in the Northeast, where cities such as Kingston and Binghamton, N.Y. showed double digit gains while the New York City metro was up only 1.8%. Boston, however, was an exception, with the median price climbing 10.7%.

Bright spots also were in California, where the median price in San Francisco was up 28.9%; up 24.4% in San Jose; up 14.7% in San Diego; up 11.7% in Anaheim; up 9.2% in Los Angeles; up 6% in Sacramento and even up 4.6% in Riverside-San Bernardino.

The Phoenix median price gained 9.1% over last year's first quarter.Denver's median price was up 16.5%. Texas markets were mostly flat.

Most Florida markets remained down (Miami -6%; Orlando -15%; Ocala -14.5%; Palm Bay -11%; Tampa -1%; Jacksonville -6%; and Cape Coral/Ft. Myers -1%.Sarasota, however, was up 8% and Pensacola was up 2.6%.

"This flattening in home prices is something we've been seeing in all of the home price measures lately, and quite clearly in this metro area price report," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "The tax credit has been very effective in drawing down excess inventory, with about one million additional sales resulting directly from the stimulus."

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 5.14 million in the first quarter, down 14% from a surge of 5.97 million in the fourth quarter, which was driven by the initial tax credit. However, first-quarter sales were 11.4% above the 4.61 million-unit level in the first quarter of 2009. "Year-ago comparisons are more meaningful in this report due to sales swings from the tax credit," Yun said.

Sales increased from a year ago in 44 states and the District of Columbia;31 states and D.C. saw double-digit gains while two were unchanged and four were down.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.