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Economic Report: ‘It will take time for surging mortgage rates to rebalance the market’: Home prices continue to skyrocket, but buyers could see relief soon

The numbers: The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city price index posted a 20.2% year-over-year gain in February, up markedly from 18.9% the previous month. On a monthly basis, the index increased 2.4% between January and February.

Meanwhile, the Case-Shiller national home price index increased 19.8% between February 2021 and February, up from the previous month. This represented the third-largest pace of home-price appreciation in the Case-Shiller report’s history.

A separate report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency matched the home-price growth the Case-Shiller indices recorded. The FHFA Housing Price Index found that prices rose 19.4% year-over-year in February and 2.1% from the previous month.

“House prices rose to set a new historical record in February,” Will Doerner, supervisory economist in the FHFA’s division of research and statistics, said in the report. “Acceleration approached twice the monthly rate as seen a year ago. Housing prices continue to rise owing in part to supply constraints.”

Key details: As in previous months, Phoenix recorded the highest rate of home-price growth in the country in February, according to the Case-Shiller report, with a 32.9% year-over-year increase. Two Florida cities closely followed: Tampa with a 32.6% gain and Miami with a 29.7% rise.

All 20 cities that the Case-Shiller report tracks not only recorded double-digit price growth in February, but a faster pace of growth than the month prior.

The big picture: The lagged nature of both these home-price reports belies the state of the housing market currently. Home-sale and mortgage-application data suggest that consumer demand is being impacted by the rapid rise in mortgage rates. Given that the intensity of competition in the housing market is what’s largely responsible for the historical pace of home-price growth, economists expect the situation to change soon.

“The macroeconomic environment is evolving rapidly and may not support extraordinary home price growth for much longer,” Craig J. Lazzara, managing director at S&P DJI, said in the Case-Shiller report, citing the Federal Reserve’s response to high inflation. He noted that the impact of surging mortgage rates has yet to be reflected in the home-price data, but could come soon.

Looking ahead: “It will take time for surging mortgage rates to rebalance the market and douse the price flames,” Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a research note.

“With diminished buying power and mortgage rates pushing above 5% in recent weeks, home price growth is likely to take a step back in coming months,” said Selma Hepp, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic.

“We expect price increases to slow markedly over the course of this year as sales volumes fall,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a research note.

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