Another day, another sign that the housing market is leveling off.
This time it's the highly regarded Case-Shiller Index, which found that home prices climbed 4.6% nationwide in the 12 months ending in December, down slightly from the previous month and the slowest pace since 2011. Its measure of 20 major cities was up 4.3%, also the slowest rate since 2011.
This came despite an improving economy toward the end of 2014 and historically low interest rates. Economists with the survey pointed to fewer people moving and a tight supply of homes on the market for the continuing slowdown.
"The housing recovery is faltering," said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones, which publishes the report that was released Tuesday. "Before the recession, anytime housing starts were at their current level ... the economy was in a recession."
The weakness was not general across the country. In metro Los Angeles, prices were up 5.5% year over year, and grew 1.1% from November to December, once seasonal factors were accounted for. San Francisco led the pack with 9.3% growth, and other Western and Southern markets generally performed more strongly than those in the Midwest and Northeast. All 20 cities were in positive territory for the years.
While the slowing price growth may sound alarm bells to some housing watchers, others say it's a natural and healthy phenomenon after years of a market characterized by big swings up and down. The big question right now, said Quicken Loans vice president Bill Banfield, is whether more sellers and builders will start to put enough homes on the market to speed up home sales and create more opportunities for people to buy.
"Home prices have entered what appears to be a steady level of appreciation that is not too hot or too cold," he said. "But the limited supply of homes on the market to choose from may make some buyers feel like they were left out in the cold."