Home prices rose for a fourth straight month in most major U.S. cities in July, buoyed by the peak buying season. But the housing market remains depressed, and prices are expected to decline in the coming months.
The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index showed Tuesday that home prices increased in July from June in 17 of the 20 cities tracked.
Prices rose sharply in Minneapolis and Chicago. Prices in two cities hit hardest by the housing crisis -- Las Vegas and Phoenix -- declined.
Analysts cautioned that prices will likely fall this fall and winter. Over the past 12 months, prices have fallen in all but two cities: Detroit and Washington.
"This is still a seasonal period of stronger demand for houses, so monthly price increases are expected," said David M. Blitzer, chairman of Standard & Poor's index committee. "While we have now seen four consecutive months of generally increasing prices, we do know that we are still far from a sustained recovery."
The Buffalo Niagara region is enjoying rebounding home prices. In July, the average price for closed deals rose by 5 percent, to $147,561, from $140,300 a year ago. It was also up from $140,095 in June. The median price rose by 7 percent, to $125,000, from $117,177 a year ago. Both set new records for any month for Western New York. Median means that half of the prices were higher and half were lower.
For the year to date, the average price was $136,911, up by 3 percent from the same seven-month period in 2010 and up by 8 percent from 2009. The median price of $115,000 was virtually flat from a year ago and up by 5 percent from two years ago.
Housing is a key reason the economy has struggled more than two years after the recession officially ended.