By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News
Dallas-area home prices posted solid gains in the latest measure of the country’s housing market – further proof that the local residential sector is stabilizing.
Dallas’ home prices were up 3 percent in December from a year earlier in the monthly Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index released Tuesday.
It was the second month in a row that area home prices rose on an annual basis. Prices were up 1.4 percent in November’s Case-Shiller Dallas report, the first such gain in more than two years.
The gains in local home prices are “another good sign that the worst is behind us,” said D’Ann Petersen, a business economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “We were fortunate not to see a huge erosion in our home values here in North Texas, and it is encouraging to see that values are moving in a positive direction.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be a few bumps ahead, she said.
“How strong any housing recovery will be depends on job growth, of course,” Petersen said.
“We do expect to see positive employment growth in 2010, but the pace will be modest compared to what we saw prior to the downturn.”
Housing conditions aren’t rebounding yet in many markets outside Texas. Overall home prices fell 3.1 percent in December in the 20 cities that Case-Shiller tracks.
“As measured by prices, the housing market is definitely in better shape than it was this time last year, as the pace of deterioration has stabilized for now,” S&P’s David Blitzer said in the report. “However, the rate of improvement seen during the summer of 2009 has not been sustained.”
More than a dozen major U.S. housing markets had year-over-year declines in home prices at the end of 2009, Case-Shiller found.
The biggest price drops were in Las Vegas, which was down 20.6 percent, and Tampa, Fla., down 11 percent.
San Francisco had the largest annual price gain in December – 4.8 percent – followed by Dallas and San Diego.
Improving home sales and pricing in Dallas and other markets are due in part to federal tax credits, said Ted Wilson, a housing analyst for Dallas-based Residential Strategies Inc.
“The bottom line is the housing market looks very good this spring,” he said. “But the industry is still waiting for job growth.
“Without job growth, one would question whether the advances are sustainable.”
6 Percent Below Peak
Case-Shiller tracks the prices of typical single-family homes in each metropolitan area. The index does not include condominiums and townhouses. It only covers pre-owned properties – no new construction.
Case-Shiller researchers compare sales of specific properties over time.
Dallas area home prices are still about 6 percent below their peak in mid-2007, according to Case-Shiller’s numbers.
Local real estate statistics show that median home sales prices in North Texas were unchanged in all of 2009 from 2008 levels, according to North Texas Real Estate Information Systems Inc.
Median prices fell 3 percent in 2008 based on data on homes sold by Realtors through the Multiple Listing Service