A report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) showed median sales prices rising from a year earlier in 133 of 152 metropolitan areas measured. In the third quarter, 120 areas had gains. U.S. foreclosure filings also fell 28 percent in January from a year earlier to the lowest level since April 2007, as a new California law slowed first-time defaults.
Prices for single-family homes climbed in almost 88 percent of U.S. cities in the fourth quarter as the housing recovery broadened.
“Home sales are on a sustained uptrend,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said in the report. “Home sales are being fueled by a pent-up demand and job creation, along with still-favorable affordability conditions and rents rising at faster rates.”
Phoenix performed best, with a 34 percent year-over-year price increase. Prices rose 31 percent in Detroit and 28 percent in San Francisco.
Prices in western states climbed 20 percent to a median $245,200, the biggest gain of any area, according to the Realtors group. Prices in northeastern states were up 0.7 percent, to a median of $228,400.
California Slows Foreclosure Filings
Filings across the nation dropped 7 percent from December to 150,864, with one in 869 U.S. households receiving a notice, according to RealtyTrac, which follows default data from counties representing 90 percent of the U.S. population.
New homeowner protections enacted in California played a principal role in the nationwide decrease, as default notices slid 62 percent from a year earlier to an 87-month low, the analysis said.
“The U.S. foreclosure landscape in January was profoundly altered by the effects of new legislation that took effect in California on the first of the year,” Daren Blomquist, vice president at Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac, said in the report. A slowdown in the state’s defaults “accelerated into hyper speed.”
The foreclosure drop is helping the housing recovery by limiting the supply of houses for sale, which increases prices. The median price of a Southern California property jumped almost 24 percent from a year earlier to $321,000, research firm DataQuick reported.
“In the short-term, the new law will probably prop up prices by restricting inventory, but it’s artificially holding back supply that would otherwise be listed for sale,” Blomquist told Bloomberg.
Nationwide, tight supply and borrowing costs near record lows may drive prices higher this year and reduce the inventory of distressed homes, according to a Feb. 12 report from JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Florida led the U.S. with the most foreclosure filings in January, the first month since 2007 that California hasn’t held the top spot. Florida also had the nation’s highest foreclosure rate for the fifth straight month, at one in 300 households, RealtyTrac said.
First-time default notices increased in states without court supervision of the process, led by a more than six fold gain in Arkansas, a 179 percent increase in Washington and an 87 percent rise in Nevada, said RealtyTrac.