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Home prices up in April for the first time in eight months

June 28, 2011 |  7:03 am

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

A closely watched index of home prices in America’s largest cities ticked up in April over March, the first such improvement in eight months, though experts attributed the increase largely to seasonal variations.

Prices of previously owned single-family homes rose a modest 0.7% in April over March but were down 4.0% from April 2010, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index of 20 metropolitan areas.

6a00d8341c630a53ef01543334ab64970c-320wi“In a welcome shift from recent months, this month is better than last -- April’s numbers beat March,” David M. Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Indices, said in a news release. “However, 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.”

After showing some signs of a rebound, the housing market began faltering again during the second half of last year with the expiration of tax credits for buyers.

Economists worry that weak demand and a steady supply of foreclosures will keep the market soft for the foreseeable future, holding back any broader U.S. economic recovery.

In March, the Case-Shiller index dipped past its prior low set in April 2009 -– confirming a widely expected double-dip in home prices. The increase in April puts the index 0.7% above that low, and home prices are now back to their summer 2003 levels.

All three of the California metro areas in the index posted month-over-month gains in April, with prices in the Los Angeles area up 0.3%, San Diego up 0.4% and San Francisco gaining 1.7%.

Six of the 20 metro areas posted new lows -- Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Detroit; Las Vegas; Miami; and Tampa, Fla.

[For the Record, 10:30 a.m. June 28: A previous version of this post stated that the 20-city index rose 0.8% in April from March. That's how much the 10-city index increased in April from March.]


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-- Alejandro Lazo

Photo: Home for sale in Palmdale. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times