In the latest sign of the slow recovery in the U.S. housing market, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has announced that its FHFA House Price Index rose 0.7% in August. Despite a downward revision to July's figures, the index has risen 4.7% over the past year.
The index, which measures purchase prices and refinancing appraisals for homes with mortgage financing through either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, showed the greatest strength in the Pacific region, which posted a 3% gain. The only one of the nine regions tracked by the FHFA that saw prices drop was the East South Central region, covering Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Looking at changes since August 2011, it's clear that different regions are recovering at different paces from the housing downturn. The Mountain region, which includes hard-hit markets Nevada and Arizona, saw prices soar 11.4% over the past year. But New England and the mid-Atlantic states had much more tepid growth, with New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania home prices rising just 0.4% in the last 12 months.
Even with the gains, though, the housing market has a long way to go to gain back all of its losses. The current FHFA House Price Index level is about the same as it was in June 2004, nearly three years before the index hit its peak. Prices remain nearly 16% below the April 2007 high-water mark.
The next reading for the FHFA House Price index will come Nov. 27 and will include a more extensive quarterly summary.
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