U.S. home prices fall slightly in November

Home prices in the nation's largest cities declined slightly in November from the previous month, a sign of typical seasonal slowing in the fall, a closely watched gauge showed.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of 20 large U.S. metropolitan areas, released Tuesday, fell 0.1% from October. That's the first decline since November 2012.

Prices were still 13.7% higher than the same month a year earlier, reflecting rapid price gains in the first half of 2013. November's annual rise was the largest since February 2006.

David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, called November a "good month for home prices," noting the strong year-over-year price appreciation. "Prices typically weaken as we move closer to the winter," he said in a statement.


Prices in the Los Angeles metro, which includes Orange County, rose 0.1% compared with October, while San Diego prices were flat. San Francisco climbed 0.4% after a slight decline a month earlier.

Western metros continue to post the largest annual gains. Prices in Las Vegas rose 27.3% compared with November 2012; in San Francisco, 23.2%; Los Angeles, 21.6%; and San Diego, 18.7%.

But the housing market downshifted last summer as higher mortgage rates and prices hammered affordability — underscoring how income growth has failed to keep pace with home prices.

The upcoming spring home buying season will provide a stronger signal into the market's health and future price appreciation.

Most economists expect price increases, although at a more moderate pace than 2013.

Average home prices across the 20 large metro areas have now reached their mid-2004 levels. Dallas prices rose 9.9% compared with a year earlier, the largest annual gain since it debuted on the index in 2000. Dallas and Denver are the only cities to have surpassed their bubble peaks.

The Case-Shiller index, created by economists Karl E. Case and Robert J. Shiller, is widely considered the most reliable read on home values. The housing index compares the latest sales of detached houses with previous sales, and accounts for factors such as remodeling that might affect a house's sale price over time. The gauge, however, uses a three-month moving average and lags other indicators.

Nine cities posted price gains from October, the Case-Shiller index showed. Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Miami and Tampa, Fla., have seen 12 or more straight month-over-month increases.

But new home construction should help ease the tight inventories driving up prices, lowering annual price appreciation into the "high single digits" this year, IHS Global Insight economists said in an emailed analysis.

Twitter: @khouriandrew