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Old 05-16-2006, 09:43 PM
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Post U.S. home prices are losing torrid pace; D-FW up 4.6%

Runaway U.S. home price gains began to moderate in the first quarter.

And prices in the Dallas-Fort Worth area were up by less than half the national rate.

The first quarter's 10.3 percent rise in nationwide median home sales prices was the smallest such increase in a year. The peak was a 14.7 percent jump in third quarter 2005.

Even with a slowdown in appreciation, U.S. median home prices were at a near record $217,900 at the end of March, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

Real estate economists predict that the pressure on home prices will ease this year.

"With the supply of homes picking up very nicely in many areas of the country, pressure is coming off of home prices," David Lereah, the Realtors' chief economist, said in the quarterly report. "By the time we report second-quarter data, I expect most areas will be returning to normal rates of price growth in the single-digit range."

North Texas home price increases have been in the single digits for some time.

In the first quarter, the median price in Dallas-Fort Worth was $146,400, up 4.6 percent from a year earlier, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Realtors' trade association.

In Texas, the biggest price gain was in El Paso, where home prices were up 14.5 percent to $120,000.

Austin had the state's most expensive housing, with a median of $167,200.

None of Texas' major housing markets saw a decline in home prices during the first quarter.

But 16 of the 149 metropolitan markets surveyed by the Realtors did see a drop in prices in the first three months of 2006.

The largest first-quarter price declines were in Midwestern cities including Danville, Ill., down 11.6 percent, and South Bend, Ind., down 10.2 percent.

The Realtors' association is sticking by its projections of no widespread home price declines this year.

"Consumers generally can expect normal price appreciation for the foreseeable future, providing solid returns over time," Mr. Lereah said.

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