Some Housing Markets Are Rising; Others, Not So Much.

A smattering of home-price indexes is painting a confusing picture of where housing markets are headed. One reason for the confusion is that there’s no such thing as a national housing market. That may have been true in 2004, when all housing markets rose together, or in 2008, when they all fell together. But one difficulty in writing about “the housing market” is that there isn’t “one” market—and increasingly, the nation’s many housing markets are moving in different directions. New data from Zillow released Wednesday added more fuel to the fire: it said home values were up by 0.5% in March from February, though still down 3.1% from one year ago. The report reveals some interesting trends about which markets are moving up, and which ones are still sliding. The rising-from-the-ashes markets: Some of the cities showing some of the strongest quarter-over-quarter gains in home values during the first quarter, including Phoenix (3.5%) and Miami (2.7%) saw the biggest bubbles and experienced very hard landings. They’ve also seen better job growth in the last few months and a surge in investor-driven purchases—this time from buyers who plan to hold onto the homes as rentals. The mountains and Midwest: At the other end of the spectrum, cities like Denver, St. Louis, and Dallas that didn’t see a terrific increase in prices have fared better during the downturn and appear closer to recovery. Big price declines: Several markets with weaker economies, heavy overbuilding, and a glut of foreclosures are continuing to fall. Atlanta and Chicago are among the hardest hit, with declines of 8.7% and 9.1% over the past year, respectively. Other boom-to-bust metros, such as Las Vegas and Sacramento, Calif., haven’t yet seen demand pickup enough to cycle through distressed inventory.

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