Home prices are on the rise, and the outlook is strong for 2016. Fresh data revealed Tuesday showed a 5.2% annual rise in the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index for October, compared to a 4.9% year-over-year rise in September.
The 20-city index, which tracks home prices in major metropolitan cities across the country, rose an even better 5.5% over the past year through October, up from 5.4 in September.
"The numbers are very strong," said David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "Month-to-month, all 20 cities were positive, and nine of the 20 cities were up 1% or more, and that shows we are seeing a lot of strength in home prices."
He also said the strengthening economy and lower unemployment, combined with low inflation, are boosting the housing market, and creating pressures on the supply side. "Inventories remain pretty tight," he said. "We're looking at about a 5-month supply of existing homes on the market and it's been right around that number for all of 2015."
Blitzer sees upward momentum on home prices heading into 2016, and asserted that the Federal Reserve's historic short-term interest rate hike in December won't have much of an impact on mortgage rates or home prices. "I don't think you're going to suddenly see a huge spike in mortgage rates that's going to cause any rush to buy and drive things up," he said.
On a more granular basis, prices in San Francisco, Denver and Portland rose 10.9% year-over-year as of October. Miami saw an 8% gain, while New York jumped just 3.1%.
However, home values rising too fast could price some consumers out of the market. "Nationally, a 5% gain in home prices is twice the gain in wage inflation, so not everyone is going to get priced out tomorrow, but if we keep going like this, you are going to see a squeeze over the next few years," he said.