June 6, 2011 (Jeff Alan)

Although home prices in the first quarter of 2011 show a double dip, the latest data from Altos Research’s Mid-Cities Composite shows signs of a strengthening spring market as median home prices increased from $440,194 in April to $444,273 in May 2011.

The new Altos Mid-Cities Composite examines an alternate set of smaller Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) across the country to counter the volatility seen in larger, mostly coastal cities in the Case-Shiller Home Price Index (HPI).

Only two of the 29 markets, New York and Las Vegas, reported deceases in prices. Prices in New York were down 2.85 percent in May compared to April, and Las Vegas reported a 0.76 decrease in May compared to April.

The cities with the largest price gains in May, compared to April, were San Francisco (3.33%), Washington D.C. (3.27%) and San Jose (3.14 %).

Housing inventory also increased in the month of May, though at a slower pace than what was seen with earlier spring numbers. Seven of the 26 markets showed double digit increases in spring housing inventory on the 90 day average, with Boston having the largest gains with a 29.01 percent inventory increase.

Other cities experiencing double digit gains in inventory on the 90 day average were New York (16.45%), Washington D.C. (15.95%), Philadelphia (14.83%), Austin (14.81), San Francisco (13.76%), and Minneapolis (12.25%).

Phoenix suffered the largest decrease in housing inventory on the 90 day average at -15.25 percent, with Miami (-7.86%) and Tampa (-1.78%) the only other two cities experiencing a shrinking inventory.

Altos Research calls the current housing market the “Catfish Recovery” by saying, “Catfish spend their time moving slowly at the bottom of lakes and rivers bobbing up and down from place to place without a clear direction. Plan for prices over the long term to hit a bottom, rise a bit, sink back down, rise again—a pattern we expect with the housing market for several years. The housing recovery will take a long time and it is going to happen slowly.”

You can read Altos Research’s Mid-Cities Composite in its entirety here.

Tags: Altos Research, Mid-Cities Composite, median home price, housing inventory, spring selling season