"We're going to learn more [about activity and prices] in the spring market," Karl Case, a housing expert who helped create the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller index of home prices, told reporters Tuesday.
By the Case-Shiller index, home prices are now down 26.7 percent from their peak in 2006.
While the real estate downturn is nationwide, it varies greatly by location.
Mr. Case, a professor at Wellesley College near Boston, says that 1 million of all homes sales in the past year were distressed auction sales. But more than half of those have come from just four hard-hit states: California, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida.
In many cities, prices are down by a more modest 5 or 10 percent.
One reason for the slower sales volume in the past few months may be that market participants are in a holding pattern, waiting to see what a new administration in the White House will do.
That was clarified recently when President Obama unveiled a plan to reduce foreclosures. It includes:
•Incentives for lenders to reduce payments for at-risk borrowers to 31 percent of income.
•Refinancing for many borrowers whose loans have turned modestly "upside down," with balances larger than the current home value.