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U.S. home prices rise 12.2 percent, best in 6 years

  • In this Tuesday, June 11, 2013, photo, a single house is offered for sale in Santa Monica, Calif. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

WASHINGTON — U.S. home prices jumped 12.2 percent in May compared with a year ago, the biggest annual gain since March 2006. The increase shows the housing recovery is strengthening.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index released Tuesday also surged 2.4 percent in May from April. The month-over-month gain nearly matched the 2.6 percent increase in April from March — the highest on record.

The price increases were widespread. All 20 cities showed gains in May from April and compared with a year ago.

Prices in Dallas and Denver reached the highest level on records dating back to 2000. That marks the first time since the housing bust that any city has reached an all-time high.

Home values are rising as more people are bidding on a scarce supply of houses for sale. Steady price increases, along with stable job gains and historically low mortgage rates, have in turn encouraged more Americans to buy homes.

One concern is that higher mortgage rates could slow home sales. But many economists say rates remain low by historical standards and would need to rise much faster to halt the momentum.

Svenja Gudell, senior economist at Zillow, a home price data provider, said a big reason for the recent price gains is that foreclosed homes make up a smaller proportion of overall sales. Foreclosed homes are usually sold by banks at fire-sale prices.

"Typical home values have appreciated at roughly half this pace for the past several months, which is still very robust," Gudell said.

Gudell said higher mortgage rates and a likely increase in the number of homes for sale in the coming months should slow the pace of price gains and stabilize the housing market.

The 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 May figures are the latest available. They are not adjusted for seasonal variations, so the monthly gains reflect more buying activity over the summer.

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