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U.S. year-to-year home prices up 12 percent

WASHINGTON -- U.S. home prices rose 12.1 percent in June from a year earlier, nearly matching a seven-year high. But month-over-month price gains slowed in most markets, a sign that higher mortgage rates may weigh on the housing recovery.

The Standard & Poor's/ Case-Shiller 20-city home price index slowed only marginally from May's year-over-year gain of 12.2 percent, the fastest since March 2006. And all 20 cities posted gains from the previous month and compared with a year ago, according to the report released Tuesday.

Long Island home prices also got a boost in June, though the rise was more moderate. The median home price across the Island rose by about 6 percent year-over-year, to a median of $425,000 in Nassau County and $340,000 in Suffolk County, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island.

Local home prices also increased year-over-year in July. The median home price in Nassau County was $435,000, a gain of 7.5 percent compared to July 2012; in Suffolk County, homes sold for a median price of $335,000, up 3.1 percent from a year earlier, the listing service reported.

Nationally, the Case-Shiller report found that home prices in Las Vegas soared 24.9 percent in June from a year earlier to lead all cities. Purchases by investors have helped drive that increase.

Other cities hit hard by the housing bust also posted stunning gains in the past year. Prices have jumped 24.5 percent in San Francisco and nearly 20 percent in both Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Still, 14 of the 20 cities posted smaller gains in June compared with May. That's unusual considering June is the middle of the summer buying season.

And in cities less affected by the housing crisis, gains have been more modest. Prices in New York and Cleveland are about 3 percent higher than a year earlier. Prices rose 5.7 percent in Washington, D.C., and 6.7 percent in Boston.

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

Steady job gains and low mortgage rates have encouraged more Americans to buy homes. And even as demand has risen, a limited number of homes has been available for sale. That combination has led to sharp prices gains.

But mortgage rates have climbed more than a full percentage point since May. The increase has already slowed sales of new homes in July. And economists expect it could drag resales lower in August.

With Maura McDermott

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