S&P: Las Vegas home prices on seven-month losing streak

Las Vegas-area home prices fell again in April as high levels of foreclosures and unemployment continued to depress the market.

Standard & Poor's widely-followed S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices’ monthly report issued today showed prices fell locally 0.7 percent from March.

This compares to a gain of 0.7 percent for the 20 big U.S. markets tracked in the report.

On a seasonally-adjusted basis, prices in Las Vegas were down 0.9 percent from March to April.

Las Vegas-area prices were down 6.2 percent from April 2010, Standard & Poor’s reported.

That compares to an average year-over-year decline among the 20 big cities of 4 percent.

Standard & Poor’s said six metropolitan statistical areas fell to new lows since prices peaked in the mid 2000s and then tumbled. They were Las Vegas, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Miami and Tampa. For Las Vegas, prices peaked in August 2006.

This is the seventh consecutive monthly decline in Las Vegas-area prices as tracked by Standard & Poor’s and puts prices locally at levels last seen in April 1999.

The numbers compare to a report issued June 8 by the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors finding that in May, the median price of a single-family home sold was $126,000, up 0.8 percent from $125,000 in April, but down 11.3 percent from one year ago.

Bloomberg News last week reported that an initiative to keep people in their homes by providing banks incentives to write down principal amounts on mortgages has had just limited success. Such initiatives, if successful, could bolster home prices by reducing foreclosures and reducing levels of unsold home inventories.

Nevada has completed just 114 principal reductions under a program launched last year in which states offer up to $50,000 in matching funds per loan to make principal write-downs work for loan servicers and investors, Bloomberg reported.

The problem of underwater homeowners and vacant homes is acute in Nevada and Las Vegas, which continue to lead the nation in foreclosures -- with one of every 103 homes in Nevada receiving some type of foreclosure filing in May, RealtyTrac reported.

The Las Vegas market also continues to be harmed by high unemployment locally, running at 12.4 percent in May, with good-paying construction jobs largely disappearing since the near-collapse of Wall Street in the fall of 2008.

Nationwide, Standard & Poor’s today said this was the first time in eight months its 20-city composite home price index rose on a monthly basis.

"The seasonally adjusted numbers show that much of the improvement reflects the beginning of the Spring-Summer home buying season. It is much too early to tell if this is a turning point or simply due to some warmer weather,’’ David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Indices, said in a statement.

"Other housing statistics show the same trends. Single-family housing starts were up in May, but still well below their 2010 levels and still very close to their 30-year low. Existing home sales rose in May, but are still about 15 percent below last year's pace and about 35 percent below their 2005 pace. While foreclosures remain a large factor in most parts of the country, the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default indices show a small decline in the pace of new defaults since last November. Other reports confirm that banks have tightened lending standards in the past year, making it harder to qualify for a mortgage despite very low interest rates,’’ Blitzer said.

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