U.S. house prices rose 7.1 percent in the year through February, the biggest gain since 2006, indicating a solidifying recovery as buyers compete for properties amid tight inventory.
Prices climbed 0.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from January, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said in a report today from Washington. That matched the average estimate of 16 economists, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Home prices have been increasing as improving employment and borrowing costs near record lows fuel demand for a limited supply of properties for sale. Prices haven’t declined on a monthly basis since January 2012, according to the FHFA’s data.
“The market was fairly strong in January and February and it continues to expand fairly robustly,” Peter Morici, a professor of business at the University of Maryland who estimated a 0.7 percent monthly increase, said in a telephone interview before the report was released.
Prices jumped 15.3 percent from a year earlier in the Pacific area, which includes California, Washington and Hawaii. In the Mountain region, including Arizona, Colorado and Nevada, the gain was 14 percent, the FHFA said. The Middle Atlantic area -- New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- had the smallest increase, at 1.9 percent.
The South Atlantic region had the biggest gain from January. Prices climbed 1.7 percent in the area, which includes Florida, Maryland and Virginia.
Sales of previously owned homes slipped 0.6 percent in March from February, the National Association of Realtors reported yesterday. The number of houses on the market fell 17 percent from a year earlier to 1.93 million. The median selling price jumped to $184,300, up 12 percent from March 2012 and the biggest year-over-year gain since November 2005, the real estate group said.
The FHFA index is 13.6 percent below its April 2007 peak. The report is based on changes in real estate values using purchases of properties with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. It doesn’t provide a specific price for homes.