From the Associated Press:
House prices may still have a long way to fall.
Across much of the nation, home values are dropping — even those backed by solid mortgages — and banks are repossessing more every day. Most experts say the dive won’t hit bottom for another year and only after excess inventory is sharply reduced and credit markets improve.
More government intervention may be needed, too, if the free market system doesn’t work quick enough.
“The housing value crisis is spreading and deepening,” said David Abromowitz, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “It has gone way beyond subprime borrowers stretched too far with bad loans and now has clearly extended into the housing markets more broadly.”
U.S. home prices dropped 8.9 percent in the final quarter of 2007 compared with a year ago, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index released Tuesday. That marked the steepest decline in the index’s 20-year history.
Meanwhile, the narrower Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said Tuesday that nationwide prices dipped 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter, the first annual decline in 16 years. Eleven states posted declines in values for the year, while prices in nine states appreciated more than 5 percent.
The OFHEO index is calculated using mortgages of $417,000 or less that are bought or backed by government-sponsored mortgage companies Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. That excludes properties bought with some of the riskier types of home loans or homes in more expensive markets like California and the Northeast.
“We reached a somber year-end for the housing market in 2007,” said Robert Shiller, one of the architects of the S&P/Case-Shiller index. “Home prices across the nation and in most metro areas are significantly lower than where they were a year ago. Wherever you look, things look bleak.”