Home prices level off with slight Sept. increase

WASHINGTON — A measure of U.S. home prices rose slightly in September from August, a sign that prices are leveling off after big gains earlier this year.

Real estate provider CoreLogic said Tuesday that home prices increased 0.2 percent in September from the previous month. That’s sharply lower than the 0.9 percent month-over-month gain in August and well below the 1.8 percent increase in July.

Prices still rose 12 percent in September compared with a year ago.

Higher mortgage rates and steady price increases began to slow home sales in September. As a result, price gains have cooled off.

Mortgage rates are still very low. And the average rate on a 30-year fixed loan has fallen to 4.1 percent in the past month, down from a two-year high of nearly 4.6 percent over the summer.

“This deceleration is natural and should help keep market fundamentals in balance over the longer-term,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic.

Many economists expect the housing recovery to continue, though with slower gains in sales. Still, the spike in rates over the summer has weighed on the market. A measure of signed contracts to buy homes fell 5.6 percent in September to the lowest level in nine months.

There is generally a one- to two-month lag between a signed contract and a completed sale. The sharp drop in September suggests final sales will decline in the coming months.

The annual price gains are widespread, according to CoreLogic. Prices rose in all 50 states and in all 100 of the largest U.S. metro areas.

Price jumped 25.3 percent in Nevada from a year earlier, the most in any state. California (22.5 percent), Arizona (14.6 percent), Georgia (14.4 percent) and Michigan (13.9 percent) reported the next highest gains.

Home prices are still about 17 percent below the peak reached in April 2006, according to CoreLogic.

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