The numbers: The pace of home-price appreciation again ramped up in March, even as the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., according to a major price barometer.
The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city price index posted a 3.9% year-over-year gain in March, up from 3.5% the previous month. On a monthly basis, the index increased 0.5% between February and March.
Is this good news? As for where home prices will go because of the coronavirus pandemic, the jury is out. Fannie Mae FNMA, -3.08% has forecast home prices to continue rising in spite of the pandemic. As buyers return to the market as the country rebounds from the pandemic, a limited inventory of homes for sale could fuel bidding wars and push prices higher.
What they’re saying: “While March was still early days, it’s looking likely that the initial impact will be felt mostly on plunging sales and listings volumes, not prices,” Robert Kavcic, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said in a research note.
What happened: Phoenix led the nation yet again with an 8.2 % annual price gain in March. However, what could be more notable is the city that came in second: Seattle.
“March’s year-over-year gains were ahead of February’s, continuing a trend of gently accelerating home prices that began last autumn,” Lazzara said. “Housing prices have not yet registered any adverse effects from the governmental suppression of economic activity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As much of the U.S. economy remained shuttered in April, next month’s data may show a more noticeable impact.”
The big picture: The Federal Housing Finance Agency also released its quarterly home-price index,which showed that home prices rose 5.7% between the first quarters of 2019 and 2020. The state that displayed the most significant rate of appreciation was Idaho, where home prices have risen 12.6%, followed by Montana (up 10.2%) and Wyoming (up 9.9%).
Only two states saw declines in home prices during the first quarter, per the FHFA’s report: West Virginia and Alaska.
But both the FHFA and the Case-Shiller indexes have not displayed the true impact on the coronavirus pandemic on home prices, even though both reports capture activity in March.
The FHFA report, for instance, is based on closings through March 31 — but there’s a significant lag between contract signings and closings. As a result, March closings are reflecting prices set in January and February, before the effects of COVID-19 were felt in earnest across the U.S.