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House prices edged up, but second quarter was still good for buyers

Market conditions favored home buyers during the second quarter.

Market conditions favored home buyers during the second quarter.

Though the real estate market showed signs of stabilizing, house prices remained at historically low levels during the second quarter of 2011, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Fewer people have packed up moving boxes this year than last year, when tax incentives stimulated house purchases. The NAR report shows second quarter home sales volumes decreased 12.7 percent on a year-over-year basis.

Regardless of decreasing sales, second quarter median sales prices rose in 40 of the 150 cities NAR studied. Prices increased most significantly in markets with low unemployment, including Washington, D.C., and San Antonio, Texas, said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Yun said low mortgage interest rates and house prices made the second quarter a good time to move, and many households could afford to do so, according to the NAR Housing Affordability Index. The Index uses median income, median house sales price and mortgage interest rate data to determine household buying power. At 176.6, buying power in the second quarter was the third-highest ever recorded since the Index began in 1970.

Despite the house price increase reported by NAR, the annual income needed to obtain financing for a median-priced home in Washington, D.C., decreased from $80,857 to $72,546 during the last year, according to the Center for Housing Policy.