Home prices fell 3.1% in the first quarter from a year earlier as record foreclosures added to the inventory of houses on the market.

The annual drop was double the 1.5% decline in the fourth quarter, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said Tuesday in a report.

Measured from the previous three months, prices fell 1.9% in the first quarter, the Washington agency said.

The main hurdle for a housing recovery is foreclosures boosting the supply of homes for sale, said Patrick Newport, an economist with IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass.

The inventory of properties on the market jumped to 4.04 million in April, the highest level since July, the National Association of Realtors said in a report Monday.

That number does not include all foreclosures, Newport said.

"Excess supply drives prices down, and foreclosures are still adding to inventory," Newport said in an interview before the report. "We've seen price improvement in some local markets, but on a national basis prices still haven't hit bottom," he said.

Home prices in 20 U.S. cities rose 2.3% in March from a year earlier, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index released Tuesday.

That was less than the 2.5% increase in the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Sales of existing homes fell 14% in the first quarter, to an annual rate of 5.14 million from 5.97 million in the previous three months, the Realtors trade group said in a May 11 report.

Purchases climbed 7.6% in April from March as buyers rushed to qualify for the government's homebuyer tax credit before its expiration at the end of last month, the Realtors said Monday.

The inventory of homes in foreclosure rose to a record 4.63% in the first quarter from 4.58% in the prior period, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a report last week.

The combined share of foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies was 14%, or about one in every seven U.S. mortgages.

Tuesday's FHFA report measures changes in real estate values using repeat data on individual properties.

It does not include a dollar value for homes.

The U.S. median home price was $166,100 in the first quarter, according to the Realtors.

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