April 2, 2014 in Business

Home costs rise amid slow sales in February

Christopher S. Rugaber Associated Press

WASHINGTON – U.S. home prices rose in February from a year earlier at a solid pace, suggesting that a tight supply of available homes is boosting prices despite slowing sales.

Real estate data provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that prices for existing homes rose 12.2 percent in February from a year ago. That was up slightly from January’s year-over-year pace of 12 percent.

On a month-to-month basis, prices in February rose 0.8 percent from January. But CoreLogic’s month-to-month prices aren’t adjusted for seasonal patterns, such as winter weather, which can depress sales.

Snowstorms, rising prices and higher mortgage rates combined to reduce home sales in February to their lowest level in 19 months.

A tight supply is helping boost prices even as sales slow. Sales fell 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.6 million in February from January, the National Association of Realtors said recently. That sales pace would exhaust the number of available homes in 5.2 months, the Realtors said – below the six-month supply typically available in healthy markets.

The states with the biggest price gains in the past year were: California, where prices rose 19.8 percent, followed by Nevada, 18.5 percent, and Georgia, 14.2 percent. No states posted a drop in home prices.

Prices in four states reached a record high in February: Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota and Texas. An additional 22 states are within 10 percent of their previous peaks, CoreLogic says.

Nationwide, average home prices remain 16.9 percent below the peak reached in April 2006, at the height of the housing bubble.

Most economists think the housing recovery could pick up once the spring buying season begins, though likely at a slower pace than last year.

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