February 25, 2011 (Brian Moore)
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) disclosed Thursday in its seasonally adjusted purchase-only house price index that U.S. home prices fell 3.9% in the fourth quarter when compared to a year earlier citing lingering unemployment and an oversupply of homes on the sales market for the price decline.

The Home Price Index HPI, calculated using home sales price information from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac acquired mortgages, was 0.8 percent lower on a seasonally adjusted basis in the fourth quarter than in the third quarter of 2010.

FHFA’s all-transactions house price index, which includes data from mortgages used for both home purchases and refinancings, decreased 0.8 percent in the latest quarter and is down 1.3 percent over the four-quarter period.

“Lingering unemployment and elevated inventories of for-sale homes contributed to the ongoing decline of house prices,” said FHFA Acting Director Edward J. DeMarco.

Significant findings of the report include:

– The seasonally adjusted purchase-only HPI declined in the fourth quarter in 35 states plus the District of Columbia. Prices rose in the latest quarter in 15 states.
– Of the nine Census Divisions, the East North Central Division and the Mountain Division experienced the most significant price movements in the latest quarter. While prices rose 0.1 percent in New England, prices fell 2.2 percent in the Mountain Division.
– As measured with purchase-only indexes for the 25 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S., four-quarter price declines were greatest in the Phoenix-MesaGlendale, AZ area. That area saw price declines of 15.3 percent between the fourth quarters of 2009 and 2010.
– Prices held up best in the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO area, where prices rose 3.7 percent over that period.

FHFA also released its monthly report on mortgage interest rates, reporting that the National Average Contract Mortgage Rate for the Purchase of Previously Occupied Homes by Combined Lenders, used as an index in some ARM contracts, was 4.71 percent based on loans closed in January. This is an increase of 0.13 percent from the previous month.

The average interest rate on conventional, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loans of $417,000 or less increased 24 basis points to 4.85 percent in January. These rates are calculated from the FHFA’s Monthly Interest Rate Survey (MIRS) of purchase-money mortgages. These results reflect loans closed during the Jan. 25-31 period. Typically, the interest rate is determined 30 to 45 days before the loan is closed. Thus, the reported rates depict market conditions prevailing in mid- to late-December.

Tags: FHFA, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, U.S. home prices, home price index, home purchases, refinancings, mortgage interest rates, ARM contracts, 30 year fixed rate