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Toledo still lags in home price gains

House prices in metro Toledo edged up slightly in early 2007, but home appreciation rates remain mired in the bottom fifth of U.S. cities, according to a new analysis of mortgage data.

The slight price increase - 0.16 percent - in the first quarter of 2007 over the year-earlier period was enough to bump the metro area to 232nd of 285 cities on a scale of home appreciation, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said yesterday.

That was 13 notches better than the 255th spot at the end of 2006.

Despite expectations of some in the housing industry that prices nationally would drop in the first quarter, they continued to increase but at the slowest pace in a decade, the federal agency said.

Displacing historically lagging cities in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio for slowest price growth were areas relatively new to the list: Punta Gorda, Fla. (-4.6 percent), Sacramento, Calif. (-4.4 percent), and Modesto, Calif. (-4.4 percent).

"Markets that were once hot have slowed down dramatically," said Andrew Leventis, an economist with the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight.

"Over the last few years, folks were anticipating that appreciation rates would fall. They were unsustainable in most areas. It was a matter of time as to when this was going to happen."

But Midwestern cities like Toledo, which where were left out of the huge run-up in housing prices experienced in some areas, are experiencing a flattening of prices, he noted.

The quarterly report is compiled from hundreds of thousands of mortgage transactions and is based on sales prices and appraisals on refinanced homes.

In metro Toledo, which includes Lucas, Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa counties, prices increased slightly more than one-half of 1 percent - 0.6 percent - from the fourth quarter of 2006 to the first quarter of 2007, the federal agency said.

The numbers were better than in December, when the federal agency showed a slight drop in prices locally from the prior quarter.

The new figures don't surprise Dan DiSalle, Jr., vice president of DiSalle Real Estate Co.

"It reflects what were seeing," he said. "It is a decent spring. We're moving a good amount of property, but it is very competitive."

Although the area continues to be a buyer's market, prices having remained stable in the first quarter offers evidence that sellers overall aren't accepting unrealistic low-ball offers, Mr. DiSalle said.

Other cities in the region included in the report were Monroe, which ranked 227th, with price growth of 0.54 percent between the first quarter of 2006 and the first quarter of 2007, and Lima, 251st, with a 1 percent drop in prices in the same period.

Sandusky was not ranked because it had too few mortgage transactions, but prices there increased just under 2 percent between March, 2006, and March, 2007, according to the report.

Nationally, the report shows seven states with double-digit rates of increase in prices from one year to the next, led by Utah at 17 percent, and seven others with a drop, led by California, at -0.8 percent. Michigan, down 0.2 percent, and Massachusetts had home-price declines over four consecutive quarters, the first time in seven years that occurred, the federal agency said.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.

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