WASHINGTON — Median home prices fell in two-thirds of the cities surveyed during the first three months of this year, a real estate trade group reported Tuesday.
The National Assn. of Realtors said median prices for existing single-family homes dropped in 100 of 149 metropolitan areas in the January-March period, while 48 saw prices increase and one showed no change.
Nationally, the median home price -- the point where half the homes sold for more and half for less -- fell to $196,300 in the first quarter, down 7.7% from the same period a year ago, when the median price was $212,600.
The steep decline was the latest indication of the problems in the housing market, which is in a prolonged slump.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors group, said part of the problem in the first three months of the year was that it was hard to get so-called jumbo loans because of the credit squeeze triggered by rising mortgage defaults, particularly for sub-prime loans made to borrowers with weak credit histories. Jumbo loans are critical to finance homes in high-cost areas of the country such as California.
"These are highly unusual results because there were very few jumbo loan originations in the latest quarter, so sales are much slower in high-cost areas, and at the same time foreclosures related to sub-prime mortgages rose," he said.
Yun said such mortgages were accounting for more than half of all foreclosures and price declines were steepest in neighborhoods where sub-prime loans had been prevalent.