The home-price freefall may be slowing.

According to data released today by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, home prices dipped just one-half of one percent (0.5%) for the first three months of this year compared to the previous quarter.

That compares to a quarterly slide of 3.3% for the last three months of December 2008.

Annually, home prices for 2009's first quarter fell 7.1% compared to the same time one year ago, which itself is a smaller annual decline than the previous quarter's year-over-year 8.3% plunge.

“Our latest data are consistent with growing evidence that housing market conditions may be stabilizing in some parts of the country, especially areas not covered by the other major repeat sales price index,” FHFA Director James B. Lockhart said. “I am hopeful that this first quarter data combined with recent market stimulus programs, such as the first-time home buyer tax credit and President Obama’s Making Home Affordable program, may mean that home price depreciation may be easing.”

The government counterpart to Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index, the FHFA home price index only measures changes prices for home purchases financed by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae (i.e., only conventional, conforming loans), but covers home sales in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The FHFA also maintains an “all transactions” index with both purchase and refinancing data.

The federal housing regulator also recently added a purchase-only index for states (seasonally adjusted) and purchase-only indices for the 25 largest metropolitan areas (seasonally adjusted and unadjusted), which should allow for more direct comparisons with the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller data. The Case-Shiller data follows repeat sales for single-family homes in 20 major housing markets; it does not exclude sales based on loan type, as the FHFA data does.

Alison Rice is senior editor, online, at BUILDER magazine.