U.S. House Prices Rise 1.7 Percent in First Quarter


According to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) most recent House Price Index (HPI), U.S. house prices rose in the first quarter of 2020, up 1.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2019 and up 5.7% year over year.

FHFA’s seasonally adjusted monthly index for March was up 0.1 percent from February.

“Home price growth in the first quarter outpaced annual growth from the same period a year ago as falling interest rates and shrinking inventories for sale led prices higher just prior to the crisis,” says Dr. Lynn Fisher, Deputy Director of the Division of Research and Statistics at FHFA.

“Because of the lag between contract signing and sale closing when our data are recorded, we judge the first quarter’s housing statistics were relatively unaffected by the COVID-19 outbreak,” Fisher adds. “However, we are unable to account for any modifications or cancellations of sales later in March.”

The data contained within this report is unlikely to reflect the economic impact of COVID-19. Estimated house price movements are based upon closings through March 31st, but, because of the time delay between when a contract is signed and a loan closes, purchase data from March largely reflect prices that were set in late-January and throughout February.

Regarding transaction counts, the number of purchase-money repeat transactions in the first quarter of 2020 are comparable to the prior quarter and to the first quarter of 2019. However, March activity might not be representative of typical home sales because of recent market changes like a higher than normal rate of sales cancellations.

Some HPI findings:

  • House prices have risen for 35 consecutive quarters, or since September 2011.
  • House prices rose in 48 states and the District of Columbia between the first quarters of 2019 and 2020.  The top five areas in annual appreciation were: 1) Idaho, 12.6 percent; 2) Montana, 10.2 percent; 3) Wyoming, 9.9 percent; 4) Utah, 9.0 percent; and 5) Hawaii, 8.8 percent.  The areas showing the lowest annual appreciation were:  1) West Virginia, -2.1 percent; 2) Alaska, -0.1 percent; 3) North Dakota, 0.4 percent; 4) Illinois, 2.5 percent; and 5) Connecticut, 3.0 percent.
  • House prices rose in all top 100 of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. over the last four quarters.  Annual price increases were greatest in Boise City, Idaho, where prices increased by 13.1 percent.  Prices were weakest in Lake County-Kenosha County, Ill.-Wis., where they increased by 0.4 percent.
  • Of the nine census divisions, the Mountain division experienced the strongest four-quarter appreciation, posting an 8.0 percent gain between the first quarters of 2019 and 2020 and a 2.5 percent increase in the first quarter of 2020. Annual house price appreciation was weakest in the West South Central division, where prices rose by 4.3 percent between the first quarters of 2019 and 2020.

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