Home Prices Hold up in March, But Are Expected to Soften Over the Year

Home Price Index Highlights: March 2020

By Molly Boesel Housing Affordability, Real Estate

  • National home prices increased 4.5% year over year in March.
  • Home prices are forecast to increase by 0.5% from March 2020 to March 2021.

National home prices increased 4.5% year over year in March 2020, according to the latest CoreLogic Home Price Index (HPI®) Report. The March 2020 HPI gain was up from the March 2019 gain of 3.6%, showing that prior to the COVID-19 outbreak home prices were starting to heat up. Home prices captured in the March report were from transactions negotiated prior to the implementation of shelter-in-place mandates, and data suggests that home sales began to slow in the last half of the month.  We can expect to see home price growth slow in response to this interruption in demand, with the HPI Forecast predicting a gain of 0.5% by March 2021.

The HPI has increased on a year-over-year basis every month since February 2012. The HPI has gained 65.5% since hitting bottom in March 2011. As of March 2020, the overall HPI was 11.4% higher than its pre-crisis peak in April 2006, just before the start of the 2007 financial crisis. Adjusted for inflation, U.S. home prices increased 3.7% year over year in March 2020 and were 9.5% below their 2006 peak[1]. Figure 1 shows the cumulative price movement since the inception of the 2006 price declines for both the nominal HPI and the inflation-adjusted HPI, as well as the time in years since the first decrease in the indices.

Figure 1: HPI Price Declines From Peak

CoreLogic analyzes four individual home-price tiers that are calculated relative to the median national home sale price[2]. The lowest price tier increased 6.3% year over year in March 2020, compared with 5.6% for the low- to middle-price tier, 4.8% for the middle- to moderate-price tier, and 4.1% for the high-price tier. Cumulative price gains since the 2011 trough were strongest for lower-priced homes, with the lowest price tier gaining 101.5%, the low- to middle-price tier gaining 80.9%, the middle- to moderate-price tier gaining 68.3% and the high-price tier gaining 51.5%. Figure 2 shows the change from a year ago and from the 2011 trough for each HPI price tier.

Figure 2: Price Growth Strongest For Lowest-Priced Homes

Figure 3 shows the year-over-year HPI growth in March 2020 for the 5 highest- and lowest-appreciating states. Idaho led the states in appreciation as it has since late 2018, with annual appreciation of 11.7% this March, far above any of the other leading states. At the low end, Connecticut saw appreciation of 1.1%. Prices in 41 states (including the District of Columbia) have risen above their nominal pre-crisis peaks. Connecticut home prices in March 2020 were the farthest below their all-time HPI high, still 17.5% below the July 2006 peak.  While annual price increases slowed in 19 states compared with a year earlier, the cooling was most pronounced in Utah. Prices in Utah increased by 5.7% year over year in March 2020, a 3.8 percentage point slowdown from the 9.5% annual increase in March 2019.

Figure 3: States With the Highest and Lowest Year-Over-Year Change in HPI

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[1] The Consumer Price Index (CPI) Less Shelter was used to create the inflation-adjusted HPI.

[2] The four price tiers are based on the median sale price and are as follows: homes priced at 75% or less of the median (low price), homes priced between 75% and 100% of the median (low-to-middle price), homes priced between 100% and 125% of the median (middle-to-moderate price) and homes priced greater than 125% of the median (high price).