The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the oprices of houses are Up, and Down. Depending on where.

Seems like everyone jusst wants to ad their own shpin on a story that has no right, wrong, left or middle.

“With the National Association of Realtors reporting that home prices rose in about half of U.S. metropolitan areas in the last three months of 2010, it’s easy to think that that the housing market is showing some signs of recovery. “Home sales clearly recovered in the latter part of 2010,” Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s ever-optimistic economist says in a statement.

But the proverbial grain of salt is in order, given many other sources report prices continue falling. The Journal recently reported that home values declined in all of the 28 major metropolitan areas tracked during the fourth quarter when compared to a year earlier, and repeat-sales indexes such as the S&P/Case Shiller index have shown that prices declined in October and November.

The Realtors are looking at a different measure, median prices, which show that prices for home resales rose in about half of the nation’s 152 metro areas during the October-December quarter. Prices rose in 78 cities, fell in 71 and were unchanged in three. The group says the national median price for single-family homes was $170,600 in the fourth quarter of 2010, up 0.2% from $170,300 a year earlier.
The Washington, DC, area gained 8.1%. There were decliners: Portland, Ore., came in down 3.8% and Seattle dipped 3.9%.
Data from Zillow, however, show bigger declines in those three markets. Washington fell 5.8%, Portland declined 12.1% and Seattle tumbled 11.9%.

Why the difference? When comparing the fourth quarter of 2010 to the prior-year period, the Realtors use median price, the point where half of sales fall above and half fall below. Last year’s data still include buyers tapping a tax credit of up to $8,000. Many of those sales were first-time buyers, who typically buy lower-priced houses. The expired credit isn’t in this year’s numbers, so median prices in some markets could be higher from a year ago because the more higher-priced sales were added to the “mix” of sales.

Most industry watchers agree that the housing market must endure more pain before it can fully recover. Lending standards are tight, preventing would-be buyers from inking deals. The foreclosure crisis, meanwhile, continues with no end in sight. Many economists and housing analysts expect home prices to fall an additional 5% to 10% before prices hit the long-awaited bottom later this year or early next year.

By Alan Zibel,; Dawn Wotapka and Nick Timiraos contributed to this article.

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