The U.S. housing market continues to make home price gains. Earlier this week, the S&P/Case-Shiller Index showed home prices gaining 4.3 percent during the 12-month period ending October 2012, marking the largest one-year gain in home prices since May 2010. The Case-Shiller Index measures changes in home prices by tracking same-home sales throughout 20 housing markets nationwide; and the change in sales price from sale-to-sale. Detached, single-family residences are used in the Case-Shiller Index methodology and data is for closed purchase transactions only. Between October 2011 and October 2012, home values rose in 18 of the 20 Case-Shiller Index markets, with previously-hard hit areas such as Phoenix, Arizona leading the national price recovery. The top three "gainers" for the 12 months ending October 2012 were :
Only Chicago and New York City posted annual home value depreciation. On average, homes lost -1.3% and -1.2% in value, respectively. It should be noted, however, that the Case-Shiller Index is an imperfect gauge of home values First, as mentioned, the index tracks changes in the detached, single-family housing market only. It specifically ignores sales of condominiums, co-ops and multi-unit homes. Second, the Case-Shiller Index data set is limited to just 20 U.S. cities. There are more than 3,000 cities nationwide, which illustrates that the Case-Shiller sample set is limited. And, lastly, the home sale price data used for the Case-Shiller Index is nearly two months behind its release date, rendering its conclusions somewhat out-of-date. That said, the Case-Shiller Index joins the bevy of home value trackers pointing to home price growth over the last year. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), for example, reported similar home price growth with its October 2012 House Price Index (HPI). Home values rose 0.5 percent between September and October 2012 nationwide, the FHFA said, and climbed 5.6 percent during the 12 months ending October 2012. Economists attribute increasing home prices to higher buyer demand, record-low mortgage rates and the gradual improvement of the U.S. economy.