Dallas-area home prices turn positive in S&P/Case- Shiller index

After more than two years of declines, home prices have finally turned positive for Dallas in the closely watched Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

Residential values in the Dallas area were up 1.4 percent in November from a year earlier – the first increase in the price index of pre-owned homes since September 2007.

The Dallas area also performed the best out of the 20 cities Case-Shiller tracks each month in the survey released Tuesday.

The upbeat Dallas numbers support other recent reports that show residential values in the area are no longer falling.

“Obviously this is positive news and reflective of the tight inventory of both new and existing homes,” said Ted Wilson of Dallas-based home market analyst Residential Strategies Inc. “And we could see further strengthening of home demand and prices in 2010 if job growth resumes later this year, as several forecasters have predicted.

“But before we get too giddy about the housing market, we should understand that there are still headwinds.”

Continued high home foreclosure rates in North Texas are a drag on home values, industry analysts warn. And sales could dip again when the federal home buying tax credit runs out in April, economists say.

Economic pressures also still constrain home buying.

“I expect to continue to see mixed signals in the home price indexes month to month during 2010 because demand will not measurably strengthen until job growth re-emerges,” said David Brown of Metrostudy Inc.’s Dallas housing research office.

Positive territory

No one doubts that the Dallas housing market is among the healthiest in the country, and the Case-Shiller numbers confirm that.

“Looking at the annual figures, four markets – Dallas, Denver, San Diego and San Francisco – finally entered positive territory, something we haven’t really seen in at least two years,” Standard & Poor’s David M. Blitzer said Tuesday in the report.

Other major U.S. home markets weren’t so lucky. Charlotte, N.C.; Las Vegas; Seattle; and Tampa, Fla., hit new low points in the index.

Prices were down 5.3 percent for all the cities in the report from a year ago and fell 0.2 percent for the month of November.

Dallas-area home prices were flat in November compared with October, Case-Shiller said.

For all of 2009, median home sales prices in North Texas were unchanged from 2008 levels, according to statistics from North Texas Real Estate Information Systems Inc. That follows 2008’s 3 percent decline in homes sold by Realtors through the Multiple Listing Service.

Dallas-area home values bottomed out in the Case-Shiller in March, when prices were down 5.6 percent on an annual basis.

Prices here are still down about 5 percent from their peak in mid-2007.

Case-Shiller tracks the prices of typical single-family homes in each metropolitan area. The index does not include condominiums and townhouses.

Its researchers compare sales of specific properties over time.

Rebound expected

Most analysts expect the Dallas housing market to begin to rebound this year. The National Association of Home Builders is predicting that the local home construction market will be back to “normal” by 2011.

Economists are cautious given the fragile state of the U.S. financial markets and sluggish consumer spending.

“I don’t think it’s time to celebrate,” said Bernard Weinstein, an economist with Southern Methodist University. “We still have a lot of cleanup to do before the local housing market reaches equilibrium.”

But Weinstein said the strong Case-Shiller number “gives more testimony to the strength of the metroplex economy and the likelihood of an ongoing recovery in the local housing market.”

Source: STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News