Home prices ticked down in the fourth quarter of last year but ended on a high note with a bump in December, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s house price index (HPI). The index, which tracks sales prices from mortgages acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, was 0.1% lower on a seasonally adjusted basis when compared to last year’s third quarter.

Annually, purchase prices were down 2.4% compared to the fourth quarter of 2010, however, prices for other goods and services improved 4.0% over the same period. As a result, once adjusted for inflation, home prices fell approximately 6.2% over the past year, according to FHFA’s data.

Underlying the national numbers, however, regional data depicted a checkerboard of improvements and declines. "While FHFA’s national index shows a 2 percentage point price decline over the latest four quarters, 12 states and the District of Columbia posted price increases," said Andrew Leventis, FHFA’s principal economist, in a statement discussing the numbers. "When coupled with the fact that about half of all U.S. states saw price increases in the latest quarter, this growth adds to mounting evidence that real estate markets are seeing at least some signs of life."

Regionally, the strongest performer among the nine Census divisions was the West South Central division, which improved by 1.07% and 1.24% on a quarterly and annual basis, respectively. The Middle Atlantic region posted the steepest decline for the quarter with a loss of 1.16%, but the Pacific region reported the steepest annual loss, with a decline of 4.78%.

December’s numbers were more promising, however, with an overall gain of 0.7% and improvements reported in six of the nine Census divisions, with two regions—the Mountain and South Atlantic divisions—posting improvements of more than 2%. The West North Central and West South Central divisions posted declines of 0.9% and 0.4%, respectively; and the Middle Atlantic region was flat.

Annually, national prices stood 0.8% below December 2010’s level, and seven of the nine divisions reported annual declines, with the West South Central and East South Central divisions posting the only annual improvements with gains of 1.7% and 3.0%, respectively.

Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Greenville, SC.