The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released monthly home price indexes for the US and the 9 Census divisions for December, and quarterly home price indexes for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and metropolitan statistical areas for the fourth quarter of 2011.
The extensive geographic coverage provided by FHFA is a huge improvement over other house price indicators, for example the Case-Shiller price indexes, which cover the nation as a whole and only 20 specific metropolitan areas. Given the local nature of housing markets, national aggregate price indexes convey relatively little information. Price measures at the state and metropolitan area level provide much more information about local conditions.
The national FHFA index shows house prices up 0.7 percent in December over November, and up 1.8 percent from a March 2011 trough. Among the 9 Census divisions, 6 are up an average of 1.2 percent in December over November, and 8 are up an average of 2.8 percent since their early 2011 troughs.
Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 28 areas have increased from third to fourth quarter and 38 are higher than the troughs reached in early 2011. Four of these 38 areas turned the corner in the most recent quarter, 30 areas have improved for 2 to 4 quarters, and the remaining 4 have improved for over a year. Of the 384 metropolitan areas and divisions FHFA calculates indexes for, 232 or 60 percent improved in the fourth quarter.
House price peaks and declines have ranged widely across areas. According to these FHFA indexes Nevada home prices have fallen 60 percent from their peaks, while North Dakota and Alaska home prices have reached new highs in the fourth quarter of 2011. As mentioned before monthly, quarterly and even annual snapshots of house price movements can be misleading (see: http://eyeonhousing.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/case-shiller-house-prices-a-little-perspective-please/ ). For a fuller view of FHFA house price indexes at the national and state levels click here: (FHFA house prices).