U.S. home-price growth slowed in March to the lowest annual rate since August 2012, another indication that the housing market is cooling off despite the overall strength of the economy.
According to the latest Case-Shiller Home Price Index from S&P Dow Jones Indices and CoreLogic, home prices in March increased 3.7% nationwide from a year ago, falling from the 3.9% annualized gain in the previous month’s report.
The month-to-month gain nationally was 0.3% and the 20-City Composite Index posted a 0.7% increase, with New York sliding into negative territory.
In the three-month period ending in March, four of Case-Shiller’s 20 cities had higher price increases than in the previous month. But at least in part, the overall trend appears counterintuitive.
“Given the broader economic picture, housing should be doing better,” David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in the report, noting that 30-year mortgage rates are at 4%, unemployment is close to a 50-year low, and weak inflation and moderate increases in real incomes “would be expected to support a strong housing market.”
According to Blitzer, the difficulty facing housing may be home prices that are too high.
“At the currently lower pace of home price increases, prices are rising almost twice as fast as inflation: in the last 12 months, the S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller National Index is up 3.7%, double the 1.9% inflation rate,” he said. “Measured in real, inflation-adjusted terms, home prices today are rising at a 1.8% annual rate. This compares to a 1.2% real annual price increases in housing since 1975.”
Blitzer also noted that “The shift to smaller price increases is broad-based and not limited to one or two cities where large price increases collapsed. Other housing statistics tell a similar story.”
The cities with the highest price gains in March were Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tampa, which, as CNBC reports, “were the markets hit hardest during the housing crash and therefore still have the furthest to go to fully recover.”