After price gains in the first half of the year, the housing market ended 2012 with a national median price matching the year-ago level, according to Realtor.com. A closer look at regional data, however, reveals some markets are continuing to strengthen while others falter.

“National data masks pronounced regional differences in strength of the housing market,” Realtor.com stated in its recent report.

Consistent with 2012 trends, the group finds Florida, California, and Arizona, “markets that were once the epicenter of the housing crisis,” are improving, while markets in the Midwest and Northeast continue to struggle.

List prices increased in 66 of the 146 markets Realtor.com observes. Prices remained unchanged in 31 markets and decreased in 49.

One trend that remained relatively consistent across most markets was inventory, which declined in 145 of the 146 markets observed.

 

 

Inventory declined most year-over-year in Sacramento, California (-67.77 percent); Stockton-Lodi, California (-64.99 percent); and Oakland California (-64.24 percent). Nine of the top 10 markets for declining inventory were located in California.

California markets also dominated the list of top 10 markets for list price increases year-over-year in December. Sacramento, California topped the list with a 43.57 percent increase, followed by Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Lompoc, California, with a 35.72 percent increase and San Francisco, California, with a 25.04 percent increase.

California’s dominance on this list is a new phenomenon this year. A look at the top 10 markets for year-over-year price increases in December 2011 includes not a single California market. Instead, Florida markets take seven of the top 10 spots.

The greatest list price declines in December 2012 were recorded in the Northeast and Midwest. Peoria-Pekin, Illinois, topped the list with a 14.29 percent decline over the year, followed by Reading, Pennsylvania, with a 7.84 percent decline and Charleston, West Virginia, with a 7.78 percent decline.

The previous December’s top 10 list included just two Midwestern markets, and four California markets earned rankings.

Also notable in Realtor.com’s recent report is its spotlight on Shreveport, Louisiana.

In 2003, after accepting more than 25,000 hurricane evacuees, Shreveport struggled with an unemployment rate that reached its highest point in a decade.

However, between June and November of last year, Shreveport’s unemployment rate plummeted from 8.4 percent to 4.6 percent.

Amid the economic turnaround, home prices rose 2.91 percent over the year, and Realtor.com expects further improvement this year.