US home prices jump by most in nearly two years in February, FHFA says

BY Reuters | AGENCY | 04/30/24 09:03 AM EDT

(Reuters) - U.S. home prices leapt in February by the most in nearly two years, federal housing authorities reported on Tuesday, reflecting the effects that lean home supply continue to have on the nation's housing market.

Prices climbed 1.2% in February from January, the largest month-to-month increase since April 2022, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said in its monthly report on home prices. On a year-over-year basis, prices climbed 7%, the swiftest increase since November 2022.

"U.S. house prices rebounded with an increase in February, after declining slightly in January," said Anju Vajja, deputy director for FHFA's division of research and statistics. "All nine census divisions experienced price appreciation over the last 12 months, with New England and Middle Atlantic divisions posting double-digit growth."

While the supply of homes on the market has slowly improved in recent months, it remains well below historic norms because many home owners have mortgages with low interest rates locked in before the Federal Reserve kicked off its rate-hike cycle more than two years ago. Relocating or trading up to a larger home would involve financing anew at rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage north of 7%, a dynamic that is enticing many homeowners to stay where they are.

Moreover, home building has been slow to fill that void. Together those dynamics are keeping a lid on the flow of properties onto the market, exacerbating a national housing shortage and housing affordability problem.

The price surge in February is unlikely to be welcome news at the Fed, which has found its rapid progress in taming inflation last year has stalled out so far in 2024. Home prices don't factor directly into the inflation measures the U.S. central bank tracks, but the changes do ultimately contribute in part to measures of imputed rents that are included in inflation indexes and have remained stubbornly high.

(Reporting by Dan Burns; Editing by Paul Simao)

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