Case-Shiller Says Home prices shrug off higher interest rates to cap year of robust growth in 2016
Home prices jumped in December to their fastest full-year growth since 2013, as buyers shrugged off the effects of higher interest rates.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, covering the entire nation, rose 5.8% in the 12 months ended in December, compared with a 5.6% year-over-year increase reported in November.
The 10-city index gained 4.9% over the year, up from 4.4% the previous month, while the 20-city index gained 5.6% year-over-year, versus a 5.2% increase in November.
“The big takeaway from this report is that all signs that the housing market was going to cool in 2016 are now reversed,” said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia. “The spring selling season is going to be another doozy for home buyers.”
The hottest markets in the country remain concentrated in the northwest, as many buyers priced out of the Silicon Valley area flee to secondary technology hubs. Seattle led the way with a 10.8% increase, while Portland posted a 10% year-over-year gain and Denver had an 8.9% annual increase.
A number of markets that have seen prices grow modestly since the recession are starting to see much faster rates of increase than they had in the recent past. Tampa, Fla., jumped 8.4%, while Atlanta enjoyed a gain of 6.3% and Las Vegas increased 5.8%.
Nationwide, home prices hit a record in September and have continued climbing by more than 5% year-over-year since then, driven by strong demand and a shortage of homes for sale.
Housing inventory in December hit its lowest level since 1999, when the National Association of Realtors started tracking the data. The number of homes for sale was down 7.1% in January compared with a year earlier, the Realtors said.
“With all 20 cities seeing prices rise over the last year, questions about whether this is a normal housing market or if prices could be heading for a fall are natural,” said David Blitzer, managing director at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
While Mr. Blitzer said the rate of appreciation is much higher than the average pace of 1.3% since 1975, it remains within the range economists consider normal. “Home prices are rising, but the speed is not alarming,” he said. Annual growth has ranged from -4% to 7% about two thirds of the time since 1975.
If mortgage rates continue to rise, economists said, the current rapid rate of home-price growth likely will slow.
“I’m not sure that it’s a bubble because demand is coming from solid job growth and improving demographics,” said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Insurance. “I don’t think it’s a bubble, but I don’t think it’s sustainable, nor is it healthy.”
Wages increased 2.5% in the year ending in January, better than the 2% gains that were common earlier in the recovery but still much slower than the rate of home-price growth.
Month-over-month the U.S. Index rose 0.2% in December before seasonal adjustment, while the 10-city and the 20-city index increased 0.3% from November to December.
After seasonal adjustment, the national index rose 0.7% month-over-month, while the 10-city and 20-city index rose 0.9% month-over month. After seasonal adjustment, all 20 cities posted price gains.
December’s numbers reflect the peak of a sharp rise in mortgage rates since Election Day. Average rates for 30-year fixed mortgages rose from roughly 3.5% around Election Day to 4.32% at the end of December, according to mortgage company Freddie Mac. In the past week they averaged 4.16%, Freddie Mac said last Thursday.
Purchases of existing homes increased 3.3% in January from a month earlier, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday, suggesting continued strong demand.
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