By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer
Last Updated: March 5, 2008: 10:40 PM EST
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — It may be the best time to buy a house in more than four years.
Home prices have dropped so quickly and so far that valuations – the difference between what a home should cost and its actual price – are the lowest they’ve been since 2004, according to a report.
The Cleveland-based bank National City Corp. (NCC, Fortune 500), together with financial analysis firm Global Insight, revealed Tuesday that more than 88% of the 330 housing markets surveyed showed price declines and improved affordability during the last three months of 2007.
“Housing valuations are almost back to long-term norms,” said National City’s chief economist, Richard DeKaser. He called current affordability “the best in the past four years.”
But DeKaser cautioned that home prices could fall even further.
“This isn’t to say home price declines are over,” he said. “We could move below historic norms. By the end of 2008, housing markets could be broadly under valued.”
“Declines are no longer confined to once-frothy markets,” said DeKaser. The survey covered home valuations during the last three months of 2007, but DeKaser pointed out there’s reason to believe that valuations are even more favorable for buyers today.
Price declines have continued into 2008 and interest rates, although they have inched up lately, have been steady or lower compared to late last year. There have even been wage gains; personal income rose 0.5% in December. Soaring foreclosure rates have added inventory to many housing markets, depressing home prices further.
The biggest gains in affordability occurred in California, Michigan and Florida, which are areas that have also been some of the hardest hit by foreclosures. Those states registered 43 of the 50 biggest price declines.
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