WASHINGTON -- Home prices rose in August in nearly all U.S. cities, and many of the markets hit hardest during the crisis are starting to show sustained gains. The increases are the latest evidence of a steady housing recovery.
The Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller index reported Tuesday that national home prices increased 2 percent in August compared with the same month a year ago. That's the third straight increase and a faster pace than in July.
The report also said that prices rose in August from July in 19 of the 20 cities tracked by the index. Prices had risen in all 20 cities in the previous three months.
Cities that had suffered some of the worst price declines during the housing crisis are starting to come back. Prices in Las Vegas rose 0.9 percent, the first year-over-year gain since January 2007. Prices in Phoenix are 18.8 percent higher in August than a year ago. Home values in Tampa and Miami have also posted solid increases over the period.
Seattle was the only city to report a monthly decline. Still, prices there fell just 0.1 percent in August from July and are 3.4 percent higher than a year ago.
Prices in Atlanta have fallen 6.1 percent over the 12 months that ended in August, the largest year-over-year decline. But Atlanta has posted the largest price gain among the 20 cities over the past three months, according to Trulia, a housing data analysis firm.
"The sustained good news in home prices over the past five months makes us optimistic for continued recovery in the housing market," David Blitzer, chairman of the Case-Shiller index, said.
The steady increase in prices, along with the lowest mortgage rates in decades, has helped many home markets slowly rebound nearly six years after the housing bubble burst.
Rising home prices encourage more people to put their homes on the market. They may also entice would-be buyers to purchase homes before prices rise further.
The S&P/Case-Shiller index covers roughly half of U.S. homes. It measures prices compared with those in January 2000 and creates a three-month moving average. The August figures are the latest available.
The figures aren't seasonally adjusted, so some of the gains in August reflect the benefit of the summer buying season.
Stan Humphries, chief economist at the housing website Zillow, expects the monthly price figures will decline in the fall and winter.
"This doesn't mean the housing recovery has been derailed," he said. "This is exactly what bouncing along bottom looks like."
Other recent reports show that the housing market is improving, albeit from depressed levels.
Home builders started construction on new homes and apartments at the fastest pace in more than four years last month. They also requested the most building permits in four years, a sign that many are confident that home sales gains will continue. Home building is still far below the pace that economists say is consistent with a healthy housing market.
New home sales jumped last month to the highest annual pace in the past two and a half years.
Sales of previously-occupied homes dipped in September but have risen steadily in the past year.
Home Prices Rise in August: Sign of Steady Housing Recovery
Home price as percentage of income: 152% Median home price: $99,000 Median family income: $65,300
Lansing is the first of five (six, if parts of the South Bend region are included) metropolitan areas located in Michigan to make this list. Home prices in the area are expected to rise by an average of 5.8 percent annually between 2012 and 2017, among the top third projected increases in the country. The median home price is just south of $99,000, or $60,000 less than the median home price in the United States.
Home price as percentage of family income: 152% Median home price: $108,000 Median family income: $70,900
The median home price in Appleton of $108,000 is higher than any metro area on this list, but it is still well below the U.S. median home price of $159,000. Home prices have consistently been cheap in the area for years. The median price between 2007 and 2012 only declined by 4.9 percent, far less than the national drop of 33.3 percent.
Home price as percentage of family income: 150% Median home price: $79,000 Median family income: $52,300
The median family income in Battle Creek of $52,300 is the 23rd lowest among all metro areas surveyed. But with home prices the third cheapest of all metro areas, buying a home is quite affordable. Home prices were relatively cheap before the economic downturn, too. Prices fell by 16.1 percent from their peak in the second quarter of 2006 to the first quarter of 2012, a far more modest decline than the nationwide home price drop of about 33 percent.
Home price as % of family income: 150% Median home price: $80,000 Median family income: $53,300
Homes in the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area are affordable, even for those with modest incomes. While median family income in the region is $9,600 lower than the national median income, median home prices are even lower — the fifth lowest in the country.
Home price as percentage of family income: 139% Median home price: $79,000 Median family income: $56,900
Memphis is the only metropolitan area on this list not located in the Midwest. While home prices of $79,000 are the third lowest of all metropolitan areas measured, home prices are expected to rise at an annual rate of 6 percent between 2012 and 2017, more than 2 percentage points more than the national median. Home prices are expected to rise 8.6 percent next year alone, one of the biggest growth rates in the country.
Home price as percentage of family income: 133% Median home price: $95,000 Median family income: $71,600
In the Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills metro area, the combined factors of high income and low home prices can make paying for a house easy. The median family income of $71,600 is the highest on this list and nearly $20,000 higher than the nearby Detroit metro. Furthermore, the median home price of $95,000, which has fallen 40.9 percent since it reached its peak in the second quarter of 2005, means that homes have become a bargain for those who can afford to buy one in this shaky economy.
Home price as percentage of family income: 132% Median home price: $80,000 Median family income: $60,000
Median home prices in Rockford are only expected to rise by 2.4 percent in 2013, less than the 5 percent price increase expected nationally. However, between 2012 and 2017, home prices are expected to grow at an annualized rate of 4.2 percent, besting the U.S. rate of 3.9 percent.
Home price as percentage of family income: 121% Median home price: $69,000 Median family income: $57,300
The median monthly mortgage payment for a house in South Bend is only 5.52 percent of the median monthly income. This is the only metro area in the United States, besides Detroit, where mortgage payments are less than 6 percent of median income.
Home price as percentage of family income: 79% Median home price: $41,000 Median family income: $51,900
While home prices were already cheap in Detroit before the housing downturn, they became even cheaper after. Home prices between the first quarter of 2007 and the first quarter of 2012 fell a whopping 53.7 percent, or 14.3 percent annually — the 10th-largest drop of all metro areas surveyed. With a median home price that is $28,000 lower than any other metro area reviewed, a median mortgage payment is only 3.6 percent of monthly income.