Home prices continue their upward climb.
Last week, the S&P/Case-Shiller Index showed home prices gaining 5.5 percent during the 12-month period ending November 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 November 2011 and November 2012, home values rose in 19 of the 20 Case-Shiller Index markets, with previously-hard hit areas such as Phoenix, Arizona leading the national price recovery.
The Phoenix market gained 1.4% for the month and was up 22.8% for the previous 12 months combined.
The top three monthly "gainers" for November 2012 were:
Only New York City posted annual home value depreciation. On average, homes lost -1.2% in value there.
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data used for the Case-Shiller Index is nearly two months behind its release date, rendering its conclusions somewhat out-of-date.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 November 2012 House Price Index (HPI).
Home values rose 0.6 percent between October and November 2012 nationwide, the FHFA said, and climbed 5.6 percent during the 12 months ending November 2012.
Economists attribute increasing home prices to higher buyer demand, record-low mortgage rates and the gradual improvement of the U.S. economy.