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US Q2 home prices fall, but rate slows

The value of US homes fell by 12.1% in the second quarter from a year earlier, but the rate of decline shrank for the first time since prices began to fall in 2007, real estate website Zillow.com said. Even so, stabilization of the hard-hit housing market, which is seen as key to an economic recovery in the United States, is not yet in view, with mounting foreclosures and a high level of “underwater” mortgages still posing threats, Zillow said.

US home values posted their 10th consecutive quarterly decline, falling to $186,500 on the Zillow Home Value Index, according to the second-quarter Zillow Real Estate Market Reports.

The report encompasses 161 metropolitan areas and covers value changes in all homes, not just those that have recently sold.

Home values in the first quarter had fallen by 12.4% from the prior-year period.

But distress signals tracked by Zillow remain high, suggesting that for most US metropolitan areas housing prices have not yet hit bottom.

Sales of previously foreclosed homes accounted for 22% of all home sales nationally in June, and 29.2% of homes sold for less than the original purchase price, the report showed.

Increasing unemployment and high rates of negative equity should spur even more foreclosures, which will add to the already-high level of for-sale inventory that needs to be cleared before values begin to rise, he said.

In the second quarter, 23% of all owners of single-family homes with mortgages were "underwater," meaning the amount owed on their mortgage exceeded the value of the home. That compared to 22% in the first quarter, Zillow said.

Negative equity has been one of the biggest banes for many homeowners, making them unable to refinance their loans and preventing some from selling their homes.

Nationally, the number of home sales in June fell 23.7% versus a year earlier, but June sales were up 3.8% over May. Additionally, in 39 markets home sales increased year-over-year, including Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles and Phoenix, the report showed. (Reuters)