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A pair of reports out Tuesday reveals that U.S. home prices ticked up slightly in April compared to March, though the reports also offered mixed signals about how well the market is holding up over the longer term.
Of Tuesday’s new numbers, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index shows the biggest month-over-month gains in April, rising 1.3 percent. In a blog post on the numbers, CoreLogic Chief Economist Selma Hepp described this uptick as a “strong gain” for home prices and notes that it suggests “homebuying activity is heating up in many markets.”
“In addition, price gains among high-tier homes are once again showing a strong rebound,” Hepp added in a statement.
April’s gains represent the third consecutive month of home price increases, according to a report on the index.
Also on Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency released its monthly FHFA House Price Index report. That report shows that home prices rose 0.7 percent in April compared to March.
Both the FHFA House Price Index and the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index are respected measures of U.S. home prices. Broadly speaking, they tend to highlight the same trends, though differences in methodology mean they don’t produce exactly the same numbers.
For example, the two indexes weigh differently valued homes in different ways, and the FHFA House Price Index includes reappraisals while the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index does not.
Interestingly, the two figures were in disagreement about what happened to home prices in April 2023 compared to April 2022. Year over year, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index experienced a 0.2 percent decline in April — a drop that Hepp described as “the first annual loss since April of 2012.”
However, the report on the FHFA House Price Index states that in April prices actually rose 3.1 percent year over year. Despite that uptick, Nataliya Polkovnichenko — supervisory economist in FHFA’s Division of Research and Statistics — said that “house prices in some regions of the country continued to decline” in April.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index report also highlights some regional variation, with Miami seeing the biggest year-over-year price gains at 5.2 percent. Boston and Cleveland experienced the biggest month-over-month gains, at 2.9 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.
The report also reveals that month-over-month gains in many metro areas actually outpaced what was happening before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Economists generally responded to Tuesday’s new numbers with optimism. In a statement, Bright MLS Chief Economist Lisa Sturtevant suggested “a summer rebound” could be in the works thanks to “this surprisingly resilient housing market.” And she suggested, “this could be the turning point for home prices.”
Sturtevant also points to high demand as a key factor in the current market.
“Rising mortgage rates were supposed to quell homebuyer demand and push home prices down,” Sturtevant said. “As rates escalated last year, buyer activity did stall. However, higher mortgage rates have not dampened buyer interest as much as many thought (or hoped) they would. As a result, while the Case-Shiller index showed a decline in April, the big home price drops some had predicted have not materialized.”
In a similar vein, George Ratiu — chief economist for real estate insights and analytics company Keeping Current Matters — said in a statement that the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Index numbers “highlighted a spring housing market regaining its footing after a winter of dire forecasts.”
Ratiu went on to note that demand rebounded in the spring, but that it also “ran headlong” into limited supply. That dynamic pushed prices higher and, to the surprise of some buyers, resulted in “multiple bids on well-priced properties,” Ratiu said. He added that this outcome is “an unexpected turn of events from the doom-and-gloom forecasts issued at the start of the year.”
“Real estate fundamentals remain out of balance, with demand still outpacing supply, and have a way to go toward health,” Ratiu said. But he also ultimately concluded that the “return of seasonal patterns is reinforcing the view that we are moving in a promising direction.”