By Diana Olick, CNBC Correspondent
NEW YORK (
) - Are we better off today than we were four years ago? That is the constant question on the eve of yet another tight presidential race. From the perspective of home prices, the answer is, as always, it depends on where you live. Some cities are faring far better than others, and some believe that home prices are not entirely finished correcting.
According to the widely watched S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Indices, home values in the nation's ten largest cities were down 2.4% from January 2009 through August 2012 seasonally adjusted. For the top twenty cities, they are down 3.7% seasonally adjusted.
These two composites, however, are still both off nearly 30% from the peaks in the summer of 2006.
Remember, also, that we saw a bump in home prices in 2010 from the Obama administration's home buyer tax credit. Home prices on the 20-city composite were up 1.5% in August 2010, not seasonally adjusted, from January 2009, but then of course they dropped again, and we are still, today, below that level of the tax credit surge.
So can an incumbent president win a second term when home prices are lower than they were when he took office? I asked S&P's David Blitzer:
"Our data go back to 1987 for the 10-City Composite, so there are a couple of hints -- Bush-1 took office with the index at 77.99 In January 1989; in November 1992 it was 77.09, and he lost. In August 1992 (comparable to August 2012, our latest data point) the index was 77.76, also down by the slightest amount. Clinton, who was re-elected saw home prices rise from an index of 76.56 to 78.23 during his first term -- up 2.2% over four years. The Clinton increase points out how large the price moves in the 2000s were. In the Carter years inflation was running close to double digits so home prices were most likely rising in nominal terms."
While S&P/Case-Shiller's top ten and top twenty city composites are basically flat since President Obama took office, the national quarterly index is up 2.6% not seasonally adjusted, and consumer confidence in home prices is higher than it has been.