Charlotte home price gains buck national trend

Annual home price gains across the U.S. continued to slow in September, but the Charlotte metropolitan area bucked that trend as it posted higher year-over-year appreciation compared with August, according to a widely watched report released Tuesday.

Here’s a look at some other highlights from the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller report:

Charlotte bucks national trend. Like the rest of the U.S., the Charlotte metropolitan area has generally seen a slowdown in annual appreciation over the past year or so. But in September, Charlotte and Dallas were the only two cities to post higher year-over-year gains when compared with August.

In the Charlotte region, prices rose 3.3 percent on average in September from a year ago, up from an annual gain of 2.5 percent in August. On a monthly basis, the Charlotte region posted a 0.6 percent increase in prices in September from August, while prices were flat in a composite index of 20 U.S. cities.

Appreciation still slowing. Nationwide, appreciation continues to cool from double-digit annual gains posted earlier this year. The index of 20 cities posted a 4.9 percent price gain from a year ago. That was down from an annual gain of 5.6 percent in August.

The slowdown in home prices could help home sales. That’s because some economists have said the recent rapid appreciation in prices has made housing unaffordable for some people such as first-time homebuyers. But tougher post-financial crisis requirements to obtain mortgages could also continue to make it hard for some people to become homeowners.

Prices remain below peaks. Despite sizable gains in home prices, they have not returned to their prerecession peaks in Charlotte and elsewhere. Home prices nationwide remain 15 to 17 percent below their peaks in the summer of 2006. In the Charlotte region, prices are 5 percent below their peaks in August 2007.

Improving economy helps housing market. David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said that the U.S. economy is looking better than a year ago, making the housing outlook for next year “stable to slightly better.” But challenges remain.

Last week, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said additional home construction is needed to meet demand and keep price growth in check. In a separate report released earlier this month, the association said the share of first-time homebuyers is at its lowest level in nearly three decades. In remarks about that report, Yun said rising rents and student loan debt are making it difficult for potential homebuyers, especially young adults, to save for a down payment.

The Case-Shiller report tracks only repeat-home sales and excludes sales of new homes. The report lags by two months.