A national index of home prices reported on Tuesday that the average price for a home has fallen to a level consistent with the final quarter of 2002.

The S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index ― which covers 20 metropolitan areas ― showed a price decline of 18.7% in March, suggesting a greater fall in prices than expected. Analysts were looking for an -18.40% reading, following the -18.67% reading for February. The 10-city measure fell a similar 18.6%. 

The numbers were even worse on a quarterly basis. The Q1 report ― which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, rather than just 20 metropolitan areas ― recorded a 19.1% decline compared to the first quarter of 2008, marking the steepest fall ever in the 21-year history of the index.

 “All 20 metro areas are still showing negative annual rates of change in average home prices with nine of the metro areas having record annual declines,” said David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s. “Seventeen metro areas recorded a monthly decline in March, with Minneapolis, Detroit and New York posting record monthly declines.”

Blitzer noted that compared to the prior month, nine metropolitan areas reported a price increase.



Still, he summed up the data with a grim assessment: “Based on the March data, however, we see no evidence that that a recovery in home prices has begun.” 

Millan Mulraine, economics strategist at TD Securities, noted the prices have fallen "a staggering 32.2%" since the housing bubble burst, including a 2.2% monthly loss in this report.

Looking at regional data, Mulraine added: “the biggest declines continue to be in the West and the South, where home prices in Phoenix (down 36.02% Y/Y), Las Vegas (down 31.23% Y/Y), San Francisco (down 30.06% Y/Y) and Miami (down 28.73% Y/Y) continue to be clobbered by the ongoing in correction in the U.S. housing market and the wave of foreclosure activities that continue to weigh heavily on prices.”

Overall, the report puts a hole in the view that the real estate market is stabilizing. It also builds anticipation for the other housing data to be released in the coming days.