20 June 2024

U.S. Home Prices Surge Higher, Pricing Out Many Buyers

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Home prices rose in nearly every corner of the country in the first quarter, showing little sign of fading soon with limited housing inventory and robust buyer demand.

The median sales price for existing single-family homes was higher in the quarter compared with a year ago for 182 of the 183 metro areas tracked by the National Association of Realtors, the association said Tuesday. In 89% of those metro areas, median prices rose by more than 10% from a year earlier.

The current home-sales boom has been unusually widespread, with low mortgage interest rates fueling strong demand across the U.S., especially for high-end properties. The shortage of homes on the market is also affecting home shoppers around the country. The number of active listings on Realtor.com was down 52% from a year earlier in the week ended May 1. ( News Corp, parent of The Wall Street Journal, operates Realtor.com.)

“The record-high home prices are happening across nearly all markets, big and small, even in those metros that have long been considered off-the-radar in prior years for many home seekers,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “With low inventory already impacting the market, added skyrocketing costs have left many families facing the reality of being priced out entirely.”

Many of the metro areas that posted the strongest price increases in the first quarter were vacation destinations, as second-home demand surged during the pandemic and continues to remain robust. The biggest gainer was Kingston, N.Y., with a 35.5% median-price increase from a year earlier. Kingston is in New York’s Hudson Valley, where many city dwellers temporarily or permanently relocated in the past year.

Following Kingston was the Bridgeport, Conn., metro area, up 34.3%, and Atlantic City, N.J., up 34%.

The only metro area to post a decline in the first quarter from a year earlier was Springfield, Ill., where median prices fell 2.4%, the NAR said.

Nationwide, the median existing-home sales price rose 16.2% in the first quarter to $319,200, a record high in data going back to 1989, NAR said.

Prices are rising so rapidly they are outweighing the benefit of rock-bottom borrowing rates. In the first quarter, the typical monthly mortgage payment rose to $1,067, from $995 a year earlier, the NAR said, even as mortgage rates declined.

Economists say the pace of price increases is likely to slow later in the year as more people are priced out of the market. But in many metro areas, demand would still exceed the available supply even if some buyers dropped out, real-estate executives say.

“Despite an 11% increase in our average sales price over the last year, demand for our homes has never been higher,” said Eric Lipar, chief executive of home builder LGI Homes Inc., in an earnings call this month.

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