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U.S. home prices rose at steady pace in March from year ago

Home values are rising at a faster rate than incomes, potentially pricing many would-be buyers out of the market. In Charlotte, home prices rose 5.8 percent in March from a year prior, slightly faster than the national rate, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price indices released Tuesday.
Home values are rising at a faster rate than incomes, potentially pricing many would-be buyers out of the market. In Charlotte, home prices rose 5.8 percent in March from a year prior, slightly faster than the national rate, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price indices released Tuesday. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

U.S. home prices rose at a steady pace in March, pushed higher by a limited supply of houses for sale.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5 percent in March from 12 months earlier, the S&P said Tuesday. Prices increased at the same pace in February. Charlotte home prices rose at a slightly faster rate of 5.8 percent year over year.

Nationally, home values are rising at a faster rate than incomes, potentially pricing many would-be buyers out of the market. Yet current increases have moderated from the double-digit gains of late 2013 and early last year.

Higher prices have not yet convinced enough owners to list their homes for sale. At the current pace of sales, the supply of homes nationally would last just 5.3 months, below the six months that is typical in a balanced market. The number of homes for sale fell 0.9 percent in April from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors.

That’s also limiting sales of existing homes, which dropped 3.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in April, the Realtors said.

Home prices have risen for 35 straight months, according to Case-Shiller, after plummeting during the housing crash and recession. They are still about 15 percent below the peak reached during the housing bubble.

David Blitzer, chairman of S&P’s index committee, said prices are rising at a faster pace than their long-term trend. They also rose more quickly in the past 12 months than average hourly wages, which were up just 2.2 percent.

That is “narrowing the pool of future home-buyers,” Blitzer said. Yet those trends may slow price gains in the coming months, he added.

“I would describe this as a rebound in home prices, not bubble and not a reason to be fearful,” Blitzer said.

The biggest increases were in San Francisco and Denver, where prices rose 10.3 percent and 10 percent respectively.

The Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. The index measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The March figures are the latest available.

Staff Writer Katherine Peralta contributed.

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