Washington is among 43 states to see home prices drop from the last quarter of 2007 through the first quarter of this year. The state's purchase price...

Share story

WASHINGTON — Washington is among 43 states to see home prices drop from the last quarter of 2007 through the first quarter of this year.

The state’s purchase price fell 1.7 percent during that time (and 0.2 percent from the first quarter of last year), a widely quoted national home-price index reported Thursday.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) said that on a seasonally adjusted basis, U.S. home prices fell 3.1 percent in the first quarter compared with last year for purchases rather than refinancings.

The quarterly national decline is the second since the index started in January 1992. The index first declined on a year-over-year basis in the final quarter of 2007, when it dropped a little less than 0.5 percent.

Rapidly falling home prices in California, Florida and Nevada are credited with driving down the national rate.

When purchases and refinancings were combined, Washington had the 15th highest year-over-year housing appreciation: 2.9 percent.

Of 363 U.S. metropolitan areas, Wenatchee had the third-highest appreciation at 8 percent year-over-year. Yakima was 17th with 5.7 percent.

Every other Washington city also posted positive yearly appreciation: Seattle/Bellevue/Everett was up 2.8 percent; Tacoma, 1.6 percent; Olympia, 3.2 percent; Bellingham, 2.4 percent; and Mount Vernon/Anacortes, 4.3 percent.

But in most Washington cities, prices slipped from the end of last year. Seattle/Bellevue/Everett home prices fell 0.4 percent; Tacoma, 0.6 percent; Bremerton/Silverdale, 1.1 percent; and Wenatchee, 0.1 percent.

Among those increasing were Yakima, 0.7 percent; Bellingham, 0.3 percent; and Mount Vernon/Anacortes, 0.1 percent.

Another widely followed national home-price study, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index, has shown larger declines for major metro areas than those reported by OFHEO.

In the latest S&P report, for example, Seattle’s one-year price decline was 1.3 percent, compared with minus 0.2 percent for OFHEO.

The data these studies use, however, are not the same.

Analysts say the federal government index provides a more comprehensive reading of the nationwide housing market. It is calculated by tracking mortgage loans of $417,000 or less that are bought or backed by government-sponsored mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The difference in the indexes is particularly apparent in Midwestern states, where prices never skyrocketed and have been less affected by the real-estate downturn.

Still, declines in the government index, which focuses on less expensive properties and includes fewer houses bought with risky loans that have soured the past year, show the depth of the market’s troubles.

“The large overhang of real-estate inventory awaiting sale continues to force price declines in many areas, but particularly in places that had seen very sharp appreciation,” said Patrick Lawler, the agency’s chief economist.

Times real-estate reporter Elizabeth Rhodes provided the information about Washington included in this story.