While national home prices slump, Miami’s rise

Miami continues to show strength in the face of a struggling national housing market. According to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, housing prices declined 3.5 percent year-over-year in February, but Miami prices actually appreciated by 0.8 percent. Miami was also one of just three markets tracked by the index to post positive monthly returns in February, as prices rose 0.6 percent, second only to Phoenix’s 1.2 percent monthly gain.

Despite the weak national picture, the February declines market an improvement from January’s steeper declines for 15 of the 20 metropolitan statistical areas covered in the survey. At the same time nine markets — Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, New York, Portland, Seattle and Tampa — hit new post-crisis lows.

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The wildest pricing swings have occurred in Atlanta and Phoenix. The former posted a 17.3 percent annual decline in home prices, more than twice as much as the next worst-performing city and the fifth consecutive month of double-digit negative returns. On the other hand, Phoenix, one of the cities hit hardest by the financial crisis, has shown gains year-over-year for two months consecutively and month-over-month gains for five months consecutively.

“While there might be pieces of good news in this report, such as some improvement in many annual rates of return, February 2012 data confirm that, broadly-speaking, home prices continued to decline in the early months of the year,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at Standard & Poors. — Guelda Voien