The April Case-Shiller Index came out yesterday and contained good news for most of the 20 cities that the index covers and some indications of a decent trend for L.A. in the first quarter of 2012. Home prices were still down in L.A. compared with this time last year — down 3.6 percent in fact — but over the past few months, prices have been edging up.
Not as much as in Phoenix, which rose by 8.6 percent from April 2011. But the decline wasn't as severe as in Atlanta, which dropped by 17 percent.
In L.A., February-March saw a tiny 0.1-percent increase after a January-February month-on-month decline. But the March-April uptick was better: 1.5 percent. This could mean that prices are gaining a footing and could start to build on their gains. Sales, after all, have been improving in L.A. But prices haven't yet caught up. This could change as foreclosures and short sales (when the lender agrees to accept a sale for less than is owed on the mortgage) move through the system.
So, some modestly positive news for L.A. But we should be careful about getting too excited. It takes the Case-Shiller numbers a while to catch up with the actual economy. So while the news is fairly good for L.A. and the nation, storm clouds on the horizon, such as problems in Europe, could darken prospects for home prices in May and June. That would be bad because what L.A. could use right now is a few more months of steady price gains, to make potential buyers think that buying a house is worth the risk.