U.S. house prices rose 1.3 percent in the first quarter of 2014 according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI). This is the eleventh consecutive quarterly price increase in the purchase-only, seasonally adjusted index.

“Although the first quarter saw relatively weak real estate transaction activity—in part due to seasonal factors—home prices continued to push higher in the first quarter,” said FHFA Principal Economist Andrew Leventis. “Modest inventories of homes available for sale likely played a significant role in driving the price increase, which was similar to appreciation in the preceding quarter.”

The HPI is calculated using home sales price information from mortgages sold to, or guaranteed by, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Compared with last year, house prices rose 6.6 percent from the first quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014. FHFA’s seasonally adjusted monthly index for March was up 0.7 percent from February.

FHFA’s expanded-data house price index, a metric that adds transaction information from county recorder offices and the Federal Housing Administration to the HPI data sample, rose 1.4 percent over the prior quarter. Over the last year, that index is up 7.0 percent. For individual states, price changes reflected in the expanded-data measure and the traditional purchase-only HPI are compared on pages 17-19 of this report.

The seasonally adjusted, purchase-only HPI rose 6.6 percent from the first quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014 while prices of other goods and services rose only 0.8 percent. The inflation-adjusted price of homes rose approximately 5.7 percent over the latest year.

Significant Findings:

  • The seasonally adjusted, purchase-only HPI rose in 42 states and the District of Columbia during the first quarter of 2014 (up from 38 states during the fourth quarter of 2013). The top annual appreciation was in: 1) Nevada, 2) District of Columbia, 3) California, 4) Arizona, and 5) Florida.
  • Of the nine census divisions, the Pacific division experienced the strongest increase in the first quarter, posting a 2.1 percent increase and a 13.2 percent increase since last year. House prices were weakest in the Middle Atlantic division, where prices increased 0.1 percent from the prior quarter. 
  • As measured with purchase-only indexes for the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S., first quarter price increases were greatest in the Charleston-North Charleston, SC Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) where prices increased by 10.7 percent. Prices were weakest in the New Orleans-Metairie, LA MSA, where they fell 2.6 percent. Positive appreciation was recorded in 71 of the 100 MSAs.
  • The monthly seasonally adjusted purchase-only index for the U.S. has increased for 23 of the last 24 months (November 2013 showed a decrease).
  • The Pacific and Mountain census divisions—the two divisions that saw the greatest price increases between March 2012 and March 2013—saw substantive decelerations over the latest 12 months. Price appreciation was 12.4 percent between March 2013 and March 2014 in the Pacific Division, more than three percentage points below the rate for the preceding 12 months. At 9.8 percent, the last 12-month appreciation in the Mountain division was more than four percentage points below the rate in the preceding 12 months.

FHFA’s “distress-free” house price indexes have recently reported lower quarterly appreciation than FHFA’s traditional purchase-only indexes. In nine of the areas covered, the new series—which removes short sales and sales of bank-owned properties—shows lower appreciation over the last quarter than the purchase-only series. During the last year, the share of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages financing distressed sales has fallen by at least 10 percentage points in more than half of the areas covered by the FHFA indexes.