Home prices keep soaring

home prices

Home prices continued to gain steam in May according to a closely-watched reading, even as mortgage rates climbed.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index was up 12.2% compared to a year ago, slightly better than the 12.1% rise in April. It was the biggest year-over-year jump in prices since March 2006, near the peak of the housing bubble.

Just a year ago, the index showed a 12-month decline in prices. But they have increased every month since June 2012, and each month the increase has been greater than the month before.

Home values have been rising due to a combination of factors, including a drop in foreclosures that had been putting downward pressure on prices, and a tight supply of houses available for sale. But the record low mortgage rates of earlier this year have risen significantly since then, crimping the purchasing power of potential home buyers.

Still, at least in this May reading, the mortgage rates have not slowed the rapid increase in prices.

“Home prices continue to strengthen,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. All 20 markets measured in the index have higher prices than they did in April. And two cities – Dallas and Denver — now have prices that are even higher than they were at the height of the bubble.

Many of the markets with the biggest year-over-year changes in prices are those that were hit hardest by the collapse of housing. Prices in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Atlanta are all up more than 20% from a year ago. New York had the most modest rise with a 3.3% increase.

But the rapid price gains over the last year are at a level that no expert thinks can be sustained. Some had even suggested it was unhealthy for the market, raising the risk of a new housing bubble, at least in some regions. The rapid rise of housing prices in the middle of the decade eventually sparked the crisis in the financial markets and the Great Recession.

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