Good news for house prices

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Here’s one positive bit of news from the housing front: fewer houses are seeing their prices slashed by owners desperate to sell.

In’s latest analysis of homes listed for sale, only 21% came up as having been previously listed at a higher price. A month ago, 22% of houses were listed at a reduced price, and over the summer 25% were.

Each month Trulia, a listings site, pulls real-estate data from 50 cities. Over the summer, markdowns accounted for at least 30% of homes listed for sale in 16 of those cities. These days, only seven cities are seeing such a high percentage of homes marked down: Jacksonville, Milwaukee, Portland, Seattle, Omaha, Tucson and Charlotte.

On the flip side, the average amount homes are being reduced by is slowly growing. For months, the typical discount was 10%, but in December it creeped up to 11%. In the most recent numbers, which are as of Jan. 1, the average reduction remains at 11%. In certain markets, it’s higher. The average markdown in Cleveland has grown to 12%, and in Phoenix to 14%.

What does this mean for the market overall? As with most other housing-related data these days, the bottom line is far from clear. Do fewer markdowns suggest a stabilization? Or could they be a sign of a brief plateau preceding another fall?

One technical detail complicating the markdown data is that if an owner pulls his house off the market before reducing the price, that reduction doesn’t register. So another possibility about what’s going on is that people are now quicker to delist their homes if they don’t like the sorts of offers they’re getting.

Or they might simply be pricing more realistically from the get-go.