House prices climbed 6.5% in year through January, FHFA says

U.S. house prices rose 6.5% in the year through January, the biggest jump since 2006, as values surged on the West Coast and in the area including Nevada and Arizona, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said.

Prices increased 0.6% on a seasonally adjusted basis from December, the FHFA said in a report today from Washington. The average economist estimate was for a 0.7% gain, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Home prices are rising as low borrowing costs and improving employment bolster demand and the inventory of properties for sale shrinks. Prices haven’t declined on a monthly basis since January 2012, the FHFA said, indicating that the recovery has solidified.

“Pretty much across the board, prices are rising,” Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts, said in a phone interview today. “That will be the trend in all 50 states by the end of the year. The forces that are driving up prices are national ones.”

Prices jumped 14.1% from a year earlier in the Mountain area, which includes Arizona, Nevada, Montana and New Mexico. In the Pacific region, including California and Washington, the gain was 13.7%, the FHFA said. The Middle Atlantic area -- New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- had the smallest increase, at 0.4%.

Higher Estimates

Morgan Stanley expects U.S. home prices to rise as much as 8% this year, up from previous estimates of 4% to 6%, analysts led by Vishwanath Tirupattur said in a note two days ago. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp. have also raised their home-price forecasts this month.

Rising values are helping homeowners to regain equity. At the end of the fourth quarter, 10.4 million homes, or 21.5% of all residential properties with a mortgage, were underwater, with owners owing more than the property was worth, CoreLogic Inc. reported this week. That was down from 10.6 million homes, or 22%, at the end of September.

The FHFA 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.

Bloomberg News

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