WASHINGTON U.S. home prices posted their sharpest first-quarter decline since the government began tracking the data 17 years ago.
The Washington-based Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said Thursday that home prices fell 3.1 percent in the first quarter compared with last year. The index also fell 1.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2008, the largest quarterly price drop on record.
"The large overhang of real estate inventory awaiting sale continues to force price declines in many areas, but particularly in places that had seen very sharp appreciation," Patrick Lawler, the agency's chief economist, said in a prepared statement.
Prices fell in 43 states, with California and Nevada showing the biggest declines. Home prices dropped by more than 8 percent in those states.
The government index is calculated by tracking mortgage loans of $417,000 or less that are bought or backed by the government-sponsored mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Legislation enacted in February temporarily raised the limit to as much as $729,750 in high-cost areas.
The government index focuses on less expensive properties and includes fewer houses bought with risky home loans that have gone sour over the past year.
Another reading that includes such properties and focuses on major U.S. cities, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller has shown larger declines.