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Home prices rise in LV, most U.S. cities

NEW YORK — Home prices in April rose for the first time in seven months as government tax credits bolstered the housing market. But the rebound may be short-lived now that the incentives have expired.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index released Tuesday posted an 0.8 percent gain. It had fallen in each of the past six months.

Eighteen of 20 cities showed price increases in April from March. Eleven cities reversed declines from the month before.

Las Vegas-based SalesTraq reported that the median resale home price rose 0.9 percent in April from a year ago to $126,000, though it slipped to $122,847 in May. New-home median prices in Las Vegas fell 5.4 percent and 9.5 percent in April and May, respectively.

Nationally, prices have risen 3.8 percent from their April 2009 bottom but remain 30 percent below their July 2006 peak.

The price gains highlight the effect of the federal tax credits for homebuyers at the start of the strong spring selling season. Buyers rushed to buy before the tax credits expired at the end of April.

“Demand for homes has softened since then, and that is likely to weigh on prices, particularly in May and June,” wrote TD Bank Financial Group economist Martin Schwerdtfeger. “Weaker sales and still-high foreclosures will likely drive month’s supply higher in the near term, and this will put lid on home prices.”

David Blitzer, the S&P’s index chairman, said the recovery is not getting a consistent and sustained boost from the housing market. He doesn’t expect that to happen until next year.

“Other housing data confirm the large impact, and likely near-future pullback, of the federal program,” Blitzer said.

Last week, the government reported that new home sales fell in May to their lowest level on record, plunging 33 percent from the month before. That was the slowest sales pace on records dating back to 1963. Sales of previously occupied homes edged down 2.2 percent.

Also, homebuilders KB Home and Lennar Corp. both reported sharp declines in new home orders in the three months ended in May.

IHS Global Insight economist Patrick Newport expects prices to resume falling through next year and lose another 6 percent to 8 percent. The declines will be widespread, he predicts.

“In two to three months, the indexes for almost all the cities will begin falling again,” Newport said.

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