WASHINGTON Median home prices fell in two-thirds of the cities surveyed during the first three months of this year, a real estate trade group reported Tuesday.
The National Association of Realtors said that median prices for existing single-family homes dropped in 100 of 149 metropolitan areas in the January-March period, while 48 metropolitan areas saw prices increase and one reported no change.
Nationally, the median home price the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less fell to $196,300 in the first quarter, down by 7.7 percent from the same period a year ago, when the median sales price was $212,600.
The steep price decline was the latest indication of the problems facing the housing market, which is in a prolonged slump that has dragged down sales and home prices.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors, said that part of the problem in the first three months of the year was that it was hard to get so-called jumbo loans because of the credit squeeze triggered by rising mortgage defaults, particularly for subprime loans, mortgages made to borrowers with weak credit histories. Jumbo loans are critical to finance homes in high-cost areas of the country.
"These are highly unusual results because there were very few jumbo loan originations in the latest quarter, so sales are much slower in high-cost areas, and at the same time foreclosures related to subprime mortgages rose," he said.
Yun said that subprime mortgages are accounting for more than half of all mortgage foreclosures and that sharp price declines are principally occurring in neighborhoods where subprime loans had been prevalent.