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As measured by the median price per square foot, December detached home prices fell .8 percent and condo prices fell .7 percent from the prior month. Detached homes are now down 5.6 percent from last December; condos are down 6.2 percent on the year.

As the graph to the right shows, the median price per square foot is down 8.4 percent and 9.6 percent for detached homes and condos, respectively, since size-adjusted median prices peaked last September.

The more widely reported, if less informative, plain-vanilla median price was actually up for detached homes so that it rests only 2.2 percent below last December’s value. The median condo price, on the other hand, declined to 12.5 percent below last year’s price. This wide divergence is due to fact that detached home prices saw an aberrant spike downward last December, making for an easier year-over-year comparison, and condos had an equally temporary spike upward with the opposite effect. Since last November’s peak, the detached median price is down 6.0 percent and the condo median is down 9.6 percent.

Some analysts will probably take heart at the rise in the single family median price. But while the typical detached home buyer may have spent a little more last month, the lower price per square foot shows that the buyer in question likely got even more bang for his or her buck. In other words, pricing power is still on the decline.

— RICH TOSCANO

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