It must be be getting tough for the National Association of Realtors to put a positive spin on the real estate market when prices in most of the more than 150 metro areas that it monitors are down and, in many cases, way, way down.

But the group and its optimistic chief economist Lawrence Yun appear to be up for the challenge, judging from the May 13 first quarter home price press release with the title: “Mixed Home Price Performance Continues in Metro Areas, One-Third Show Gains.”

A better title might have been: “Two-Thirds of Metro Areas See Price Drops as the NAR Reports the Largest Quarterly Home Price Decline Since it Began Releasing Price Data in 1982.”

The median home price for single-family homes fell 7.7% in the first quarter compared to a year earlier. The Sacramento metro area first-quarter median home price dropped a startling 29%. The median home price in Lansing, Mich. fell 27%. And in Sarasota, Fla. the median price declined 22%. Eight metro areas saw price drops of more than 20%. Only three metros saw increases of more than 10%.

But the press release skips over the big declines in California, Nevada, Florida, Arizona and Tennessee metros and notes, instead, that Binghamton, N.Y. median prices rose 11.8% from a year ago, prices in Peoria, Ill. jumped 10.4% and Spartanburg, S.C. home values leaped 10.1%. Yun says that slowing sales in high-price areas is dragging down the national median home price and “the numbers don’t tell the whole story.”

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