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Home prices climbed in 87% of US metro areas in first quarter

[BOSTON] Home prices climbed in 87 per cent of US metropolitan areas in the first quarter as buyers competed for a tight supply of listings, the National Association of Realtors said.

The median price of an existing single-family home rose from a year earlier in 154 of the 178 markets measured, the group said in a report Monday. In the previous three months, 81 per cent of metropolitan areas had price increases. Twenty-eight regions had gains of 10 per cent or more in the first quarter, down from 30 markets at the end of 2015 and 51 a year earlier.

Home prices have been climbing as job growth helps fuel demand for a limited inventory of properties for sale. There were 1.98 million previously owned homes for sale at the end of March, down 1.5 per cent from a year earlier, the Realtors group said. The jump in values has made it difficult for many first-time buyers to compete in the most heated areas, said Lawrence Yun, the group's chief economist.

"The solid run of sustained job creation and attractive mortgage rates below 4 per cent spurred steady demand for home purchases in many local markets," Mr Yun said in the report. "Unfortunately, sales were somewhat subdued by supply and demand imbalances and broadly rising prices above wage growth."

The median price of an existing single-family home was US$217,600 in the first quarter, up 6.3 per cent from a year earlier, the Realtors said. The most expensive markets were the San Jose, California, area, where the median price for a house reached US$970,000; San Francisco, with a US$770,3000 median; and Honolulu, at US$721,400.

Home prices declined from a year earlier in 24 metro areas, or 13 per cent of the markets tracked, according to the report.

BLOOMBERG