Home prices rose for the third straight month in August, data Tuesday showed, a key sign for a broad and sustained housing recovery.
The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index of 20 major cities climbed 1 percent from July to a seasonally adjusted reading of 144.5. While prices are down 11.4 percent from August a year ago, the annual declines have slowed since February.
Prices are at levels not seen since August 2003 and have fallen almost 30 percent from the peak in May 2006.
The latest index shows a widespread turnaround with prices rising month-over-month in 15 metro areas since June.
“If the increases are consistent across the markets, this is key,” said Wharton School real estate professor Susan Wachter before the index was released. “Then we’re seeing the formation of a bottom.”
However, Wachter along with other industry experts still worry that rising unemployment and more foreclosures could stifle the rebound. Another unknown is whether a temporary federal tax credit for first-time buyers will be extended to help boost sales.
First-time homebuyers can receive a credit of 10 percent of the sales price, up to $8,000. The real estate industry is lobbying Congress to extend the credit past the Nov. 30 deadline. Top Democrats in the Senate are pressing a plan that would prolong the credit but gradually phase it out over the next year.
Not all metros posted gains in August, though. Prices in Las Vegas, Seattle and Charlotte, N.C., all fell to their lowest levels in August. Prices in Las Vegas have plunged by 56 percent since peaking in April 2006, the largest peak-to-trough decline of all 20 cities.