Broadly speaking, the rate of annual decline in home price values continues to improve. The two Composites and 19 of the 20 metro areas showed an improvement in the annual rates of return, as seen through a moderation in their annual declines. Looking at the monthly data, 17 of the MSAs and both Composites saw price increases in August over July. While many of the markets remain down versus this time last year, the relative rate of decline has shown some real improvement. California, in particular, has seen some real positive prints in recent months. We see this general trend whether you look at the as-reported data or the seasonally adjusted figures. Once again, however, we do want to remind people of the upcoming expiration of the Federal First-Time Buyer’s Tax Credit in November and anticipated higher unemployment rates through year-end. Both may have a dampening effect on home prices.

David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s

We’re nearing the bottom in home prices. Right now the government is helping to stabilize housing.

Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight

The residential housing market appears to have stabilized, but it has done so at a very low level

William Foote, chief executive officer of USG Corp, October 21 conference call

While many are interpreting the most recent results from this index as indicative of a bottom in home prices, we do not believe this to be the case. Rather, this is probably a correction after unsustainable 2%-3% per month declines recorded over the autumn and winter months when the overall economy was in free-fall. Demand stimulated by the $8000 first-time homebuyer tax credit has also likely played an important role.

Joshua Shapiro, MFR

A rapidly rising unemployment rate is creating problems for many formerly creditworthy homeowners. While much of the impact of the subprime disaster on prices at the bottom end of the market may well be behind us, there is likely plenty of pain yet to come further up the price spectrum

Joshua Shapiro, MFR, quoted in NYT

Consumers’ assessment of present-day conditions has grown less favorable, with labor market conditions playing a major role in this grimmer assessment…Consumers also remain quite pessimistic about their future earnings, a sentiment that will likely constrain spending during the holidays.

Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

So far, so good. There’s nothing negative in these numbers…[but]…Everything is up for grabs this winter.

Maureen Maitland, vice president for index services at Standard & Poor’s

There is little doubt the housing market is improving. Prices are improving, the inventory picture continues to get better, and government support for the sector remains in place, for now.

Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist for Miller Tabak

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