US house price jump at fastest rate in seven years

Rock-bottom mortgage rates have fuelled double-digit price rises in 117 regions tracked by the National Association of Realtors

Homes under construction in the Delta Coves housing development on Bethel Island, California, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 10, 2020. Environmental groups in California have filed a lawsuit contesting the approval of revenue bonds to build a massive $16 billion water tunnel under the California Delta, an ecologically sensitive and expansive river estuary south of Sacramento, saying the state hasn't yet completed required impact reviews. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
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Prices for single-family homes across the US increased 12 per cent in the third quarter, the biggest annual jump in seven years, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The cost of housing is rising across the country, adding to affordability concerns as millions of Americans lose income during the pandemic. Prices rose from a year earlier in all 181 metropolitan areas measured by the group, and 117 regions had double-digit gains, compared with only 15 in the second quarter, according to a report on Thursday.

Mortgage rates near record lows have fuelled a surge in demand, pushing buyers to compete for a scarce supply of listings. Many are rushing to the suburbs, looking for extra space to quarantine in comfort – searches that are likely to intensify now as Covid-19 infections soar to the highest levels in months. Unless borrowing costs fall much further, first-time buyers will increasingly be priced out of home ownership.

“Favourable mortgage rates will continue to bring fresh buyers to the market,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the association. “However, the affordability situation will not improve even with low interest rates because housing prices are increasing much too fast.”

The average rate for a 30-year mortgage climbed to 2.84 per cent, up from a record-low 2.78 per cent last week, government-sponsored homes loans company Freddie Mac said on Thursday.

The nationwide median price of a single-family home in the quarter was $313,500, according to the association. The 12 per cent year-on-year increase was the largest since the third quarter of 2013, when prices jumped 12.4 per cent.

Fairfield County, Connecticut – home of enclaves like Greenwich, as well as Bridgeport, one of the state’s poorest cities – had the biggest increase in prices, with 27.3 per cent. Following were Crestview, Florida; Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Kingston, New York; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Boise, Idaho.

At the end of the quarter, 1.47 million previously-owned homes were available for sale in the US, 19.2 per cent fewer than a year earlier. It would take just 2.7 months to sell those homes at the current rate of deals.