Home prices rise in December on low rates, inventory

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index climbed 2.9% in December

WASHINGTON — U.S. home prices rose at a faster pace in December as mortgage rates remained low and a falling supply of available properties set off bidding wars between buyers.

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The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index climbed 2.9 percent in December from a year earlier after posting a 2.5 percent gain in November.

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Prices rose in all 20 cities, led by increases of 6.5 percent in Phoenix, 5.3 percent in Charlotte, North Carolina, and 5.2 percent in Tampa, Florida. Prices rose just 1 percent in Chicago and New York.

Just 1.42 million homes were on the market at the end of January, down nearly 11 percent from a year earlier. The limited supply pushes prices higher. The rate for a benchmark 30-year, benchmark mortgage loan was 3.49 percent last week, down from 4.35 percent a year earlier.

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Prices in the 20 cities are up 63 percent from the low they reached in March 2012 in the wake of the financial crisis and 6 percent above their July 2006 pre-crisis peak.