Home prices throughout much of the country don't look as if they're coming down anytime soon—but they're also not shooting up as much as they have in previous years.
Nationally, prices notched up 3.7% in March, according to the latest CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index. That's the lowest level of growth they've seen since September 2012, when the country was struggling to rebound from the Great Recession. It also marks the 12th straight month of diminishing price increases.
But that doesn't mean folks should fear another housing market meltdown is on the way.
"The changes that we've seen have helped to bring the housing market back into balance," says CoreLogic's chief economist, Frank Nothaft. "The slowing house price growth is helping to restore affordability, so that more people can afford to buy."
Lower mortgage interest rates are also helping to get more prospective buyers off the sidelines. Rates were just 4.06% as of May 23, a decrease of 60 basis points from a year ago—a difference that could shave thousands of dollars off a 30-year, fixed-rate loan. (One basis point equals 0.01%.)
"Mortgage rates were really high in 2018, and that just put a chill on home buyers," says Nothaft. "Now that mortgage rates are down ... [and] with incomes up, I'm still expecting the spring and summer home-buying season to be pretty solid."
The fastest-growing metropolitan area was one of the hardest hit in the Great Recession: Las Vegas. (Metros include the main city and surrounding smaller urban areas, suburbs, and exurbs.) Price growth surged 8.2% year-over-year in Sin City, where the foreclosure crisis left scores of empty homes and vacant building lots. As of April 1, the median list price reached $315,050, according to the most recent realtor.com® data.
"Las Vegas had a huge crash in the market during the Great Recession," says Nothaft. "Las Vegas is one of those metros where prices have not yet come back to where they were back in 2006."
Las Vegas was followed by the popular retirement destination of Phoenix, where price growth increased 6.1%, to hit a median list price of $349,050. Another retirement hot spot, Tampa, FL, with a median of $274,950, had a 5.3% increase.
Meanwhile, the metros where price appreciation fell the most were also the most expensive. The West Coast saw the biggest drops, with Seattleleading the pack, with a 11.4% decline in price growth.
However, prices were still up 1.6% annually. That's because the cost of a home and the increase in its price are two different things. So buyers shouldn't expect a bargain in Amazon's backyard. Median list prices were still high for the metro area at $625,025.
"I would not call Seattle affordable, but it's more affordable than it was one year ago," says Nothaft.
Seattle was followed by San Francisco, where price growth went down 9.9% and Los Angeles, where it declined 6.7%. Median prices in those metros were $948,300 and $750,050, respectively.