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Home prices in two-thirds of US cities have hit record highs

[WASHINGTON] Home prices jumped to all-time highs in almost two-thirds of US cities in the fourth quarter as buyers battled for a record-low supply of listings.

Prices for single-family homes, which climbed 5.3 per cent from a year earlier nationally, reached a peak in 64 per cent of metropolitan areas measured, the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday. Of the 177 regions in the group's survey, 15 per cent had double-digit price growth, up from 11 per cent in the third quarter.

Home values have grown steadily as the improving job market drives demand for a scarcity of properties on the market. While prices jumped 48 per cent since 2011, incomes have climbed only 15 per cent, putting purchases out of reach for many would-be buyers.

The consistent price gains "have certainly been great news for homeowners, and especially for those who were at one time in a negative equity situation," Lawrence Yun, the Realtors group's chief economist, said in a statement. "However, the shortage of new homes being built over the past decade is really burdening local markets and making homebuying less affordable." Sales of previously owned homes, including single-family houses and condos, increased 4.3 per cent to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.62 million in the fourth quarter, the Realtors said. At the end of December, only 1.48 million existing homes were available for sale, 10.3 per cent less than a year earlier.

The most expensive markets were San Jose, California, where the median income was $1.27 million, followed by San Francisco, the Irvine, California, area, Honolulu and San Diego.

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