About half of the U.S. metro areas included in a National Association of Realtors home-price report had double-digit annual price from fourth-quarter 2004 to fourth-quarter 2005.

The association’s report, which covers 145 metropolitan statistical areas, shows a record 72 areas with double-digit annual increases in median existing single-family home prices. Six areas posted price declines. The previous record for areas showing double-digit price appreciation was 69 metros in the third quarter of 2004, the association announced today.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement, “Although home sales have eased, the tremendous momentum in price appreciation was sustained in the fourth quarter because tight inventories still favored sellers. The good news is that the supply of homes on the market has been trending up and we are entering a period of a more normal balance in supply and demand.”

The national median existing single-family home price was $213,000 in the fourth quarter, up 13.6 percent from a year earlier when the median price was $187,500. The median is a typical market price where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less. In the third quarter of 2005, the annual rate of home-price appreciation was 14.7 percent.

The biggest single-family price increase in the nation was in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area of Arizona, where the fourth quarter price of $268,400 rose 48.9 percent from a year earlier. Next was Cape Coral-Fort Meyers, Fla., at $293,100, up 48 percent from the fourth quarter of 2004. Orlando, Fla., with a fourth-quarter median price of $261,800, was up 42 percent in the last year.

Median fourth-quarter metro area single-family prices ranged from $63,800 in Danville, Ill., to nearly 12 times that amount in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area of California where the median price was $747,000. The second most expensive area in the United States was the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont area at $718,700, followed by the Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine area (Orange County, Calif.) at $699,800.

Other low-cost markets include, Elmira, N.Y., the second least costly metro area at $78,800, and Decatur, Ill., with a fourth-quarter typical resale home price of $84,500.

The association is launching a new series of statistical reports on metro area condominium and cooperative prices, covering changes in 51 markets. Co-ops are a very small market share and are included with condo data, the association announced.

In the fourth quarter, the national median existing condo price was $228,200, which is 12.3 percent higher than a year ago. In all, 27 areas showed double-digit annual gains in the median condo price; there were seven areas with declines.

The national condo price is higher than the median single-family home price because there is a high concentration of condos in the most expensive metropolitan areas. Within a given area, the typical single-family home costs more than the median condo price, Lereah noted.

The strongest gains in condo prices were in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area, where the fourth quarter price of $175,600 jumped 50.9 percent from a year ago. In the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area of Florida, the median condo price of $185,400 rose 37.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2004, while the Honolulu area, at $300,000, increased 36.4 percent. In all, 52.9 percent of the available markets experienced double-digit annual condo price appreciation. The condo price series will be expanded in the future as more data becomes available.

Metro area median existing condo prices ranged from $105,700 in Bismark, N.D., to $616,800 in San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont. The second most expensive reported area for condos was Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, at $406,600, followed by the San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos area of California at $390,300.

Other low cost condo markets include Rochester, N.Y., at $108,800, and Greensboro-High Point, N.C., at $109,000.

None of the areas with price declines had previously experienced rapid price growth, the association reported. “Generally, these were lower-cost areas experiencing one or both of the conditions necessary for temporary price softness – local economic weakness, mainly in jobs, or a large supply of homes available in the local market,” according to the announcement.

Regionally, the strongest increase in the median existing single-family home price was in the West, up 18.2 percent over the last year to $328,500 during the fourth quarter. After Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, the strongest increase in the West was in the Tucson, Ariz., area, at $245,200, up 32.3 percent, followed by Salem, Ore., at $194,100, up 28.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2004, and Honolulu, at $620,000, up 26.5 percent.

In the Midwest, the fourth-quarter median existing single-family home price of $167,600 rose 11 percent from the same period in 2004. The strongest metro increase in the Midwest was in Peoria, Ill., where the median price of $112,700 was 18.4 percent higher than the fourth quarter of 2004. Next was Bismark, N.D, up 16 percent, and Danville, Ill., at $63,800, up 12.5 percent in the last year.

In the South, the typical existing single-family home price was $185,300 in the fourth quarter, up 9.2 percent from a year earlier. After the Cape Coral-Fort Meyers and Orlando areas of Florida, the strongest increase in the South was in Ocala, Fla., at $161,100, up 41.2 percent from the fourth quarter of 2004. Next was Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, where the fourth quarter median price of $223,000 was 32.3 percent higher than a year ago, and the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News area of Virginia and North Carolina, at $220,500, up 31.5 percent.

“Homes on the Gulf Coast that escaped damage from Hurricane Katrina were in high demand, resulting in strong price appreciation,” Lereah said. The New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner area annual rate of appreciation in the fourth quarter was 29.2 percent, Gulfport-Biloxi was up 24.9 percent and Beaumont-Port Arthur rose 18.8 percent.

In the Northeast, the median resale single-family home price during the fourth quarter was $240,300, up 8 percent from a year ago. The strongest increase in the region was in the New York City-Wayne-White Plains area of New York and New Jersey, at $537,300, up 19.2 percent from the fourth quarter of 2004, followed by Reading, Pa., with a median price of $143,200, up 16.9 percent, and the larger region of the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island area of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, at $459,600, up 16 percent.

Thomas M. Stevens, NAR president and senior vice president of NRT Inc., said in a statement, “There is a powerful underlying demand for homes from a growing population, which will keep housing at a high plateau.”

NAR began publication of metropolitan area median single-family home prices in 1982.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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