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Originally published June 28, 2011 at 7:04 AM | Page modified June 29, 2011 at 8:57 AM

April home prices rise in Seattle and other U.S. cities, but analysts cautious

Prices rose in 13 of the 20 cities tracked by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index, according to the April report released Tuesday.

The Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — Home prices in Seattle and most major U.S. metropolitan areas rose in April from the previous month — the first gain in eight months — boosted by an annual wave of spring buying. Analysts cautioned, however, that the increases may be temporary and don't signal a rebound for the depressed home market.

Prices rose in 13 of the 20 cities tracked by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index, according to the April report released Tuesday. Washington, D.C., saw the biggest increases, with a 3 percent gain from March, followed by San Francisco, at 1.7 percent, and Atlanta and Seattle at 1.6 percent.

The index, which covers metro areas that include about 50 percent of U.S. households, rose 0.7 percent from March, the first monthly increase since July.

The index measures sales of select homes in those cities compared with prices in January 2000 and provides a three-month average price. The April data is the latest available.

The Seattle metro area's April price gain was its second straight month-over-month increase. Home prices in the area — which includes King, Snohomish and Pierce counties were higher in April than in February and March, but were lower than in January.

Prices in the Seattle area are still down 6.9 percent from April 2010, however, compared with a 4 percent year-over-year decline for the 20-city index overall. Seattle prices now are about the same as they were in September 2004, according to Case-Shiller.

Last year, a tax credit for first-time buyers helped boost home prices nationwide. They rose nearly 4 percent from April through July before falling more than 7 percent this winter to record lows. Prices in big metro areas sank in March to their lowest level since 2002.

The positive Case-Shiller data released Tuesday came with a caveat: It was not adjusted for seasonal factors. When looking at seasonally adjusted numbers, prices actually fell a hair nationally, although they rose slightly in the Seattle metro area as well as in Atlanta, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Portland.

Despite the gains in other cities, six metro areas are at their lowest levels in nearly four years. Those markets are: Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, Miami and Tampa, Fla.

Analysts noted that both buyers and sellers are reluctant to reach deals in the face of widespread price declines. And nearly 2 million foreclosures could hit the market over the next two years.

Many foreclosures have been delayed while federal regulators, state attorneys general and banks review how those foreclosures were carried out over the past two years.

Information from Seattle Times business reporter Eric Pryne is included in this report.

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