November 10th, 2009
03:20 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Home prices may be bottoming out

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/24/gall.housing.gi.jpg caption="Most cities in the U.S saw gains in the median price of single-family homes sold during the three months that ended Sept. 30 "]
Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

The prolonged period of pain in the housing market seems to be easing, at least temporarily anyway.

Most cities in the U.S saw gains in the median price of single-family homes sold during the three months that ended Sept. 30, according to the National Association of Realtors' quarterly report on home prices. This is the second consecutive quarter of gains.

The national median home price was $177,900 in the third quarter, up $7,000 from the previous quarter. And while that was still down more than 11% from the third quarter of 2008, the pace of decline is slowing. In the second quarter of 2009, home prices fell more than 15% from the same period last year.

The NAR attributed much of the recent increase in home prices to the government's first-time homebuyer tax credit, which has helped revive sales.

Also on the home front… the Treasury Department says some 650,000 troubled borrowers have been put into trial loan modifications under President Obama's $75 billion foreclosure rescue plan.

That number represents 20% of eligible homeowners at least 60 days behind in their payments, according to the Treasury. This is up from 16% a month earlier.

Despite the progress, housing counselors say the number of people falling into foreclosure vastly exceeds the ranks getting assistance. The number of filings hit a record high of 937,840 in the third quarter. That's a 5% increase from the second quarter and a 23% jump over the third quarter of 2008.

And JPMorgan & Chase says it plans to hire 1,200 mortgage loan officers as the bank moves to expand its home loan business.

The New York-based bank said the hiring spree will grow its home loan sales force by 60% and will be complete by the end of 2010.

New loan officers will be hired in 23 states - including California, Florida and Texas and key cities such as New York and Chicago.

The new loan officers will work with personal bankers and referral sources, such as real estate agents and builders, as well as with their own network of homeowners, JPMorgan says.

“There’s no place like home for the holidays,” or so the old song says. But despite some discounts on plane tickets and hotels, people continue to look for even cheaper travel deals for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday - and some may wind up avoiding the airlines altogether.

The Air Transport Association says it expects a 4% decline in the number of airline passengers during Thanksgiving compared with a year ago.

The ATA attributes the drop-off to the tough economic climate, citing high unemployment and the recession as the main reason.

There are also many new fees for checking bags and a host of other charges that can add to the cost of air travel - and that may be leading more people to stick closer to home this year.

But travelers shouldn't expect planes to be less crowded than in the past. In fact, they'll be even more crowded. Airlines have been cutting back on flights or rolling out smaller planes in response to the decline in bookings.

Follow the money… on Twitter: @AndrewTorganCNN


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