Home Prices Continue to Rise, but Less Rapidly

    At the national level, home prices continued to trend upward in the first quarter, although year-over-year increases were a bit smaller. The new data out from the National Association of Realtors shows different types of markets throughout the U.S., with things looking up on the whole.

    Price increases were recorded in 74% of tracked markets, with 125 out of 170 metros showing gains in the first quarter. Of those, 37 metro areas, or 22%, had double-digit gains, while 45 metros had lower median prices.

    The national median existing single-family home price was $191,600 in the first quarter, up 8.6% from $176,400 during the same period a year ago, NAR said. This was a slight decline in yearly growth from the fourth quarter 2013, when prices were up 10.1% from the previous year.

    What this means for buyers and sellers depends a lot on which market they’re in. Overall, sellers are in a much better place with rising prices since it helps them gain equity and in some cases pull out of negative equity.

    Meanwhile, buyers in some markets – notably in many cities throughout the Midwest and South were also in a good position last quarter, with loans becoming a bit easier to get, and mortgage rates still very attractive.

    The five priciest housing markets in the U.S. in the first quarter were:

    • San Diego at $483,000
    • San Jose, Calif., with a median home price of $808,000
    • San Francisco at $679,800
    • Anaheim-Santa Ana, Calif., at $669,800
    • Honolulu at $672,300

    The five lowest-cost metro areas were:

    • Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio, with a median price of $64,600
    • Decatur, Ill., at $69,600
    • Toledo, Ohio, at $72,100
    • Rockford, Ill., at $73,100
    • Cumberland, Md., at $81,400

    The fact that prices continue to increase in general is a good thing, but many also feel that the slowing down of the pace is also great news. It will help to keep affordability in check as incomes struggle to keep up, yet maintain a healthy equity environment for many home sellers.

    The big takeaway, however, is that in 2014, the mantra, all real estate is local, is even more poignant as we watch trends in various markets.

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