Home Prices Increase at Fastest Rate in 34 Years in December, but Rising Mortgage Rates Remain a Threat

The numbers: The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city price index posted a 18.6% year-over-year gain in December, up slightly from 18.3% the previous month. On a monthly basis, the index increased 1.5% between November and December.

Meanwhile, the Case-Shiller national home price index demonstrated 18.8% growth between 2020 and 2021 in December, in line with November’s reading.

“This is the highest calendar year increase in 34 years of data, and
substantially ahead of 2020’s 10.4% gain,” Craig J. Lazzara, managing director at S&P DJI, said in the Case-Shiller report.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index showed that prices rose 17.5% between the fourth quarters of 2020 and 2021. Prices were up 1.2% between November and December, per the FHFA report.

What happened: Phoenix recorded the highest rate of home-price growth in the country in December, according to the Case-Shiller report, with a 32.5% year-over-year increase. As with the month prior, two Florida cities closely followed: Tampa with a 29.4% gain and Miami with a 27.3% rise.

The FHFA report showed that home-price growth during the fourth quarter of 2021 was strongest in Arizona, Utah and Idaho, and weakest in the District of Columbia, Louisiana and North Dakota. That report recorded the highest pace of home-price appreciation in Cape Coral-Ft. Myers, Fla., where prices rose 34.6% on an annual basis.

The big picture: Home buyers may have seen a pick up in the pace of home-price growth in December, but that will likely be short-lived. While home prices aren’t expected to fall in the coming months, rising mortgage rates will knock some of the wind out of their sails.

As interest rates move higher, it cuts into the amount buyers can afford. And housing was unaffordable for many even before rates began their steady ascent. Consequently, some buyers could find themselves priced out of the market entirely this spring.

Looking ahead: “Home prices continued to surpass expectations in December, but a marked change may be ahead for growth as rising mortgage rates eat into homebuyer purchasing power,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com.

“While typical asking prices continue to accelerate, the pace of median sales price growth has slowed, signaling a potential gap between what buyers are willing and able to pay and what sellers are hoping to net,” she added.

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