Case-Shiller: National home prices continue recovery, now back to 2003 (!) levels

From the S&P/Case-Shiller press release for home prices through December, Home Prices Closed Out a Strong 2012 According to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices:

Data through December 2012, released today by S&P Dow Jones Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed that all three headline composites ended the year with strong gains. The national composite posted an increase of 7.3% for 2012. The 10-and 20-City Composites reported annual returns of 5.9% and 6.8% in 2012. Month-over-month, both the 10- and 20-City Composites moved into positive territory with gains of 0.2%; more than reversing last month’s losses.

The national composite index is only released quarterly, so I’m going to focus the rest of this post on that one. More from the release, quoting index chair David M. Blitzer:

“The National Composite increased 7.3% over the four quarters of 2012. From its low in the first quarter, it surged in the second and third quarter and slipped slightly in the 2012 fourth period. The 10- and 20-City Composites, which bottomed out in March 2012 continued to show both year-over-year and monthly gains in December. These movements, combined with other housing data, suggest that while housing is on the upswing some of the strongest numbers may have already been seen.”

In other words, we likely won’t continue to see year over year numbers as positive as these, but prices are still generally headed up. Of course, these are generalities and we might see deeper declines in some areas, for some types of houses, or at some price points for a long time.

It’s also worth noting that even with the strong recovery, national home prices have just now reached their levels of mid-2003.

Here’s how that looks on a graph, with the index level on the left and the year over year change on the right: