Area home prices buck national trend

Columbia’s rise is one of the highest.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009  (Reprint from Columbia Daily Tribune)

The median price of an existing single-family home in Columbia rose 6 percent during the first quarter of the year, the third-largest increase in the nation. Only the Cumberland area of Maryland and West Virginia (21.1 percent) and the Davenport-Moline-Rock Island area of Iowa and Illinois (13.8 percent) saw larger increases.

The median price of an existing home in Columbia during the first quarter was $152,600. In Boone County, the price was $154,800, up 7.7 percent from $143,685 a year ago Carol Van Gorp, CEO of the Columbia Board of Realtors, said the fact that prices have stayed steady is a testament to Columbia’s financial institutions. “They’ve been conservative in making loans,” she said. “We’re not facing the huge foreclosure issues that other areas are facing.”

Nationwide, home prices fell in nearly nine out of every 10 U.S. cities in the first quarter as first-time buyers looking for bargains dominated the market.

The National Association of Realtors said today that median sales prices of existing homes declined in 134 out of 152 metropolitan areas compared with the same period a year ago. Prices rose in the other 18 cities. Nationwide, sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties made up about half of the market.

Overall, existing-home sales in the Midwest fell by 2.2 percent in the first quarter, the Realtors group said, and the median existing single-family home price was down 6.8 percent to $132,400.

Home sales fell in all but six states — Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida, Virginia and Minnesota — where buyers have been able to snap up foreclosures at a deep discount. Sales more than doubled in Nevada, rose 81 percent in California and grew 50 percent in Arizona — signaling that the worst might be over for those distressed states.

Still, the median sales price nationwide was $169,900, down 13.8 percent from a year ago. The median price is the midpoint, which means half of the homes sold for more and half for less.

The biggest drop — more than 50 percent — was in Fort Myers, Fla. Prices fell 40 percent or more in Saginaw, Mich.; Akron, Ohio; San Francisco; San Jose, Calif.; Phoenix; Sarasota, Fla. and Riverside, Calif.

Lawrence Yun, the trade group’s chief economist, said the $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers included in the economic stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year should boost sales. .“We expect a measurable increase in home sales during the second half of the year, which would help stabilize prices in most areas,” Yun said in a statement.