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Updated Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 06:24 AM

Seattle house prices slip in December

By Eric Pryne
Seattle Times business reporter

Seattle-area house prices slipped 0.5 percent in December after hitting a two-year high in November, according to the closely watched Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

Only two of the 19 other metropolitan areas that Case-Shiller tracks saw steeper month-over-month declines. The composite 20-city index rose 0.2 percent.

But Seattle’s drop seemed to be largely the result of seasonal factors – the holidays usually are a slow time for home sales. When adjusted to account for seasonal influences, Seattle-area prices rose 0.7 percent month-over-month.

And prices were up 8.2 percent from December 2011, the eighth straight month of year-over-year gains and the biggest increase since the housing bubble popped.

The numbers are for the Seattle metropolitan area: King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. The December statistics, the most recent available, were released Tuesday.

Nineteen of the 20 cities that Case-Shiller tracks posted year-over-year gains in December; seven of them had double-digit jumps, led by Phoenix at 23 percent and San Francisco at 14.4 percent. The 20-city composite index rose 6.8 percent in 2012.

“Home prices ended 2012 with solid gains,” says David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Housing and residential construction led the economy in the 2012 fourth quarter.”

The Seattle area’s Case-Shiller score for December was 141.75, meaning prices were 41.75 percent higher than in January 2000. The metropolitan area’s high, 192.30, came in July 2007.

The region’s lowest score since the real-estate bubble burst, 128.99, occurred last February. Since then prices have risen about 10 percent, but most of that gain came between March and July.

Prices have been mostly stable since then. But Seattle-based real-estate database and marketplace Zillow has forecast home values in the three counties will appreciate 4.6 percent in 2013 – more than the 3.3 percent gain anticipated nationally

“We believe that the housing recovery is on stable footing, fueled by strong fundamentals of high affordability and increasing household formation,” Zillow chief economist Stan Humphries said in a statement.

Steady price increases should help fuel the housing recovery. They encourage more people to buy before prices rise further. Higher prices also build homeowners’ wealth, which can spur more spending and economic growth.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Eric Pryne: epryne@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2231


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