Home Prices Continue Rising

The US housing sector continues to show signs of improvement after spending years holding back the broader US economic recovery. Prices in the nation’s 20 largest cities rose 0.9 percent from May to April according to an index from Standard & Poor’s and Case-Shiller, released Tuesday. A total of 18 of the 20 cities in the index posted gains in median sales prices, and the year-over-year decline continued to decline as prices were down just 0.7 percent as compared with May 2011.

In cities and neighborhoods across the US, it is becoming more and more evident that the housing crisis has reached a bottom. Of the 20 cities tracked by the S&P/Case-Shiller index, prices bottomed out in January 2012, on average, though the bottom came sooner for some than for others. In Minneapolis, for example, the bottom in housing prices came in October of last year while prices bottomed out in November in Tampa and Miami.

The recent upward trend in home prices has caught most analysts by surprise, as conventional wisdom predicted a surge in foreclosures following a multi-state agreement with the nation’s five largest lenders over questionable foreclosure practices. This surge never materialized, however, and prices have begun climbing back up. Another encouraging sign is that the rise in home values has lifted some 700,000 homeowners out of negative equity during the first quarter, allowing thousands to refinance at more affordable rates and save their homes in the process.