As everyone from the government to builders look for hope in the housing market, home prices have become a closely watched number.
But Wednesday’s release from the Federal Housing Finance Agency offered little clarity. “Revisions and volatility of the monthly index make it hard to draw any conclusions,” acknowledged James Lockhart, FHFA’s director. Home prices rose slightly in May (0.9%) compared to the previous month on a national basis, but year-over-year, they fell 5.6% across the country.
The FHFA home price index is based on the purchase prices of homes with loans owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in all 50 states. This typically results in less dramatic home price changes than the competing S&P/Case-Shiller home price index, which focuses on all homes sold (including those with jumbo loans) in 20 major housing markets around the country.
Regionally, the monthly home price numbers were split between gains and declines.
Winners included the Pacific (Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California), where home values moved up 2.7% in May. East North Central (Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio) and the South Atlantic (Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida) regions also improved, with increases of 1.5% and 1.4% respectively.
The remaining five Census regions essentially stayed flat.
On an annual basis, the Pacific region continues to struggle the most, with a 14% slide in home price values year-over-year.
Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.