Utah had the third-biggest decline in the nation in home-sales volume in the first quarter, down 34 percent, although home prices in Salt Lake City still increased 3.5 percent, according to a report Tuesday from the National Association of Realtors.

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.

Maryland had the biggest U.S. sales decline, at 39 percent, while the District of Columbia tumbled 35 percent, followed by Utah with a 34 percent decrease and California at 33 percent, according to the report. Only Alaska, Indiana and New Jersey reported sales increases during the quarter.

Nationally, sales fell by 22.2 percent in the first quarter, compared with the same period a year ago.

The largest median-price increase in single-family homes was in the Binghamton, N.Y., area, where the median price rose 11.8 percent from a year ago, followed by Peoria, Ill., up 10.4 percent, and Spartanburg, S.C., where the first-quarter median price increased 10.1 percent.

The strongest metro price increase in the West was in the Yakima, Wash. area, which was up 9.0 percent from a year ago, followed by Farmington, N.M., up 6.3 percent and the Salt Lake City area, up 3.5 percent from the first quarter of 2007.

The price declines in 67 percent of the areas surveyed were the largest percentage of areas reporting declining prices in the history of the association's survey, dating back to 1979. Prices had fallen in 34 percent of the cities surveyed in the fourth quarter 2007 report.

Nationwide, 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.

Lawrence Yun, the association's chief economist, 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 made to borrowers with weak credit histories. He said 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.

Subprime mortgages are accounting for more than half of all mortgage foreclosures, and sharp price declines are principally occurring in neighborhoods where subprime loans had been prevalent, Yun said.

Home prices are falling as foreclosed properties reduce the value of nearby real estate, he said. U.S. foreclosure filings more than doubled in the first quarter from a year earlier, according to an April study released by Irvine, Calif.-based RealtyTrac Inc.

Utah ranked 16th in rate of foreclosures in the month of April, according to RealtyTrac.

Homeowners who live near a house repossessed by a lender will see their property values drop an average of $5,000, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. Nationally, foreclosures will result in $202 billion of lost real-estate value, the Durham, N.C.-based group said.

"Foreclosures throw more supply on the market and accelerate the price declines that have already taken place," said Michael Darda, chief economist at MKM Partners in Greenwich, Conn.

Contributing: Bloomberg News.

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