Atlanta area home prices make gains, have long way to go

Housing prices in metro Atlanta are rising, but have a long way to go to fully recover, according to a quarterly report from a California-based real estate information company.

Sale prices were down 0.7 percent over the past 13 months, according to the Clear Capital Home Data Index, released Wednesday.

It is the smallest decline the metro Atlanta area has seen in three years, the data revealed.

Though that may look hopeful, that home prices in the metro area ended 2009 nearly flat compared to the year before, the reality is 2008 was one of the worst years on record for housing prices, said Alex Villacorta, a senior statistician for Clear Capital.

“That 0.7 percent does look hopeful, but the reality is we’re still down 32.7 percent from where we were at the peak of prices in mid-2006,” he said of the Atlanta area.

The results for the previous four months are “neutral but tend toward bad,” said Steve Palm, president of Marietta-based SmartNumbers.

“I’d expect prices to be up because there are fewer houses on the market and there is more demand,” he said. “But we need to see prices to rise in 2010. We need to clear out all of the weak offerings and get the normal inventory back up.”

The Clear Capital Home Data Index uses similar methodology as the widely-watched S&P Case-Shiller Index. One of the main differences in the results, however, is Clear Capital’s inclusion of most distress sales, which Case Shiller uses on a limited basis, Villacorta said.

Both indexes use resale prices from existing homes and do not include new construction sales.

According to Clear Capital’s data, real estate owned -- or foreclosed properties -- represented 25 percent of the homes sold in metro Atlanta between September and Christmas Eve. For the year, Villacorta said, foreclosures were nearly 37 percent of all sales. That is up from nearly 26 percent in 2008 and barely 11 percent in 2007, he said.

Nationally, home prices, which recorded a 20 percent decline in 2008, ended 2009 1.3 percent below 2008 levels, the report said.

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