“The key economic question facing housing is the Fed’s future course to scale back quantitative easing and how this will affect mortgage rates,” David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P index committee, said in a statement. “Other housing data paint a mixed picture suggesting that we may be close to the peak gains in prices.”
Unadjusted prices climbed 0.2 percent in October from the previous month after a 0.7 percent gain in September.
The year-over-year gauge, which uses records dating back to 2001, provides a better indication of price trends, according to Karl Case and Robert Shiller, creators of the index.
All 20 cities in the index showed a year-over-year gain, led by a 27.1 percent advance in Las Vegas. Values climbed 10.9 percent in Chicago, its biggest advance since 1988. Charlotte and Dallas showed their largest increases in record-keeping going back to 1987 and 2000, respectively.
Property values are climbing even as rising mortgage rates cool demand. Sales of previously owned homes declined for the third consecutive month in November, reaching the lowest level of the year, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed earlier this month.
The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.48 percent in the week ended Dec. 26, compared with 4.1 percent at the end of October, according to McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac. It was at 3.35 percent a year earlier.
A report from the real-estate agents’ group yesterday signaled the slowdown may have run its course. Contracts to purchase previously owned homes rose last month for the first time since May. Economists consider pending home sales a leading indicator because they track contract signings. Existing-home sales are tabulated when a deal closes, usually a month or two later.
Other parts of the market are rebounding. Purchases of new homes exceeded projections in November, holding near a five-year high. Sales declined 2.1 percent to a 464,000 annualized pace, following a revised 474,000 rate in October that was the strongest since July 2008, Commerce Department data showed last week.
Builders began work on more houses in November than at any time in the past five years to try to keep up with demand, other Commerce Department figures showed.
Homebuilders such as Los Angeles-based KB Home see the rise in interest rates as a short-term “pause” for buyer demand that won’t crimp a pickup in the housing recovery next year.
“Higher mortgage rates, higher home prices and lower consumer confidence due to uncertainty in Washington triggered a pause among homebuyers who are now being more cautious,” Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Mezger said on a Dec. 19 earnings call. “Affordability is at attractive levels, demographics remain strong and there’s pent-up demand due to delayed household formation” that will support the market in 2014.
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