You can't escape the media's obsession with the housing apocalypse. Yet in some areas of the country, the housing boom continues unabated.
That's according to the latest data from the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index. The readings for the first quarter of 2007 generally confirm the national slump in housing prices, with the national index down 1.4% from last year's levels, and a composite index of 10 major cities down 1.9% year over year. For the quarter, prices dropped 0.7% nationwide, extending losses in each of the two previous quarters. It's no surprise that many people are starting to think their homes are the worst investment ever.
Location, location, location
Yet in some areas of the country, homeowners may wonder what all the fuss is about. Home prices in the Pacific Northwest continue to move sharply higher, with annual gains of 10% in Seattle and 7% in Portland. In the Southeast, growth continues at a slower pace; Charlotte is up 7.4%, but Atlanta rose just 2%, and Miami had a 1% hike. Of course, that won't make hard-hit homeowners in Detroit (-8.4%), San Diego (-6%), or Boston (-4.9%) feel any better.
All of this proves that national readings of home prices are as relevant to individual homeowners as stock indexes are to investors in individual stocks. And while investors can buy index funds to diversify their holdings, homeowners have to commit to a given area when they buy. Until someone decides to come out with an ETF that tracks the home price index, homeowners will have to hope their localities will avoid the worst of the housing slump. And investors may do well looking beyond national homebuilders like Toll Brothers
No matter whether your area is slumping or booming, you have to have somewhere to live. For basic information on buying, selling, and financing a home, take a closer look at our Home Center. If you need to figure out how to fit a home into your overall financial plan, you could use a free trial subscription to our personal finance service, Motley Fool Green Light, with helpful guides for homeowners and buyers of all ages. A sneak peek at money-saving advice can be yours for 30 days.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger hopes he just bought at the lows, but he's not counting on it. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy follows the trends.