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U.S. home prices shoot up in January

U.S. home prices were up 5.7 percent in January compared to a year ago, CoreLogic reported Tuesday in yet another survey that suggests that prices have been rising faster than some analysts say is healthy.

CoreLogic said 27 states have either topped their previous peaks before the recession, or are within striking distance of their peaks. The company forecast that the price growth will cool off somewhat, however. Excluding troubled properties, CoreLogic estimates prices will go up on a national basis by 4.9 percent through January.

“House price appreciation has generally been stronger in the western half of the nation and weakest in the mid-Atlantic and northeast states,” said Frank Nothaft, chief economist at CoreLogic, in a news release.

He noted that Colorado and Texas have seen prices rise between 8 and 9 percent on the strength of a strong job market. However, prices are flat in states like Delaware, Maryland and Connecticut.

CoreLogic’s analysis is based on repeat sales. Other surveys have pegged the year-over-year gains at nearly a percentage point less. For example, the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index reported last week that the annual price gain was 4.6 percent in December and 4.7 percent in November.

In an early analysis of February's numbers, however, Clear Capital offered a different interpretation of trends in prices. While it reported that home prices are continuing to rise steadily, the company was concerned that demand for houses appears to be falling in some of the hottest markets, such as San Francisco and San Mateo counties. The company also noted that prices in low performing metropolitan markets, places like Hartford and Providence, R.I., are flat or declining.  As a whole, the western region's home prices still remain 22 percent below pre-recession levels, the company said.  

On a national basis, prices rose 5.8 percent year over year in February, the company reported. In San Francisco, however, prices declined slightly in February. 

"The fact that we are now seeing quarterly declines in arguably one of the hottest markets in the country should be a stark reminder that the state of the overall housing market continues to be tenuous," said Alex Villacorta,  vice president of research and analytics at Clear Capital, in a news release on Monday.

As home prices have risen steadily, however, some analysts have raised concerns about affordability. Last week, Lawrence Yun, chief economist, National Association of Realtors, noted that home prices have been rising at least twice as fast as incomes.  He was also concerned about a lack of homes for sale in some markets, and these tight inventories are pushing prices up. 


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