Lender Processing Services released its latest Home Price Index (HPI) late last week, reporting that home values increased for just the third time in five years.
Covering the month of February, the HIP rose by 0.2 percent from January, the first price increase since March 2010. The January HPI had originally estimated that prices would fall by another 0.3 percent, but as LPS explained, positive sways in the economy since then accounted for the 0.5 variance from the original estimate.
Values in Houston increased by 0.2 percent from January, and are up by 21 percent from 2000. At their peak, prices in the city were up 22 percent from 2000. So though Houston’s values seem modest compared to other markets, it largely escaped the speculation – and fall – of the boom years.
Raj Dosaj, the vice president of LPS Applied Analytics, said there had been inklings of the increase for some time.
“There have been signs of price declines slowing for a few months now, and our estimates for next month are flat to slightly positive,” he said.
Dosaj was also humble in the face of the data, and he was careful to avoid any gushing positivity.
“Without a pickup in sales volumes from their current anemic levels, it’s hard to be more optimistic that the market may be nearing the end of its fall,” he said. “Reasons for caution are clear, as we’ve been here before. Non-seasonally adjusted prices increased for a few months in early 2009, 2010 and 2011 – trends that all ended by summer, after which all the gains – and then some – were lost.”
And Dosaj is correct to characterize the HPI’s travels as a bit of roller coaster ride. From April 2007 through April 2009, the HPI nationally fell at an average annual rate of 9.3 percent, after peaking at 80 percent above its 2000 level. The declining trend slowed somewhat from April 2009 to April 2010, but with the expiration of the first-time buyers’ tax incentive in April 2010, steadier declines once again commenced.
The latest HPI also uncovered some fascinating data regarding foreclosures and short sales. Though foreclosures are often characterized by great price declines, the two transactions have grown closer in discount rates the last two years, as more and more lenders have embraced short sales to reduce their losses.