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The median sales price of single-family homes sold across the Washington area in the fourth quarter of 2019 posted a 4.5-percent increase from the same period a year before, below the national average but still placing the region 12th nationally in terms of priciest real estate.

The region’s median sales price of $436,200 for a single-family home recorded in the October-November-December time frame was up from $420,000 a year before, according to new data from the National Association of Realtors.

Across the nation, the vast majority of metro areas saw price gains – 170 of 180 (94 percent) were in positive territory, on par with the third quarter.

The national median existing single-family home price in the fourth quarter was $274,900, up 6.6 percent from the fourth quarter of 2018 ($258,000).

Inventory constraints continue to push prices higher while also bedeviling prospective purchasers.

“It is challenging – especially for those potential buyers – where we have a good economy, low interest rates and a soaring stock market, yet are finding very few homes available for sale,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. “We saw prices increase during every quarter of 2019 above wage growth.”

Eighteen metro areas witnessed double-digit price growth last quarter, including Trenton, N.J. (18.2 percent); Boise City, Idaho (13.7 percent); Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss. (11.8 percent); Kingston, N.Y. (11.2 percent); and Albuquerque (11.1 percent).

“Rising home values typically create wealth gains for existing homeowners as shown in NAR’s latest study; however, areas that are deemed ‘too expensive’ will obviously have trouble attracting residents and companies looking to do business there,” Yun said. “We need a good balance – but right now, the balance is still in favor of home sellers.”  

Prices continue to rise even in America’s most expensive metro areas. Of the top 10 most costly metros, only San Jose saw a year-over-year decline in single-family sales price ($1.25 million, down 0.3 percent). Other high-priced areas include San Francisco, Calif. ($990,000; up 3.9 percent); Anaheim-Santa Ana, Calif. ($828,000; up 3.6 percent); Honolulu ($812,600; unchanged); San Diego ($655,000, up 4.6 percent); Boulder, Colo. ($630,400; up 6.4 percent); Los Angeles-Long Beach ($617,300, up 7.2 percent); Seattle-Tacoma ($528,800, up 8 percent); Nassau County, N.Y. ($496,600; up 3.7 percent); and Boston ($482,800, up 4.9 percent). Washington was right below Decnver ($458,000) immediately outside the top 10.

Despite rising home prices, falling mortgage rates in 2019 made it more affordable for a family to manage monthly mortgage payments, enticing many first-time buyers. Affordability for first-time buyers improved, as well.

Among the various regions of the country, the median sales price of homes in the Northeast stood at $302,500, up 5.8 percent; in the Midwest stood at $210,000, up 6.8 percent; in the South stood at $242,500, up 6.1 percent; and in the West stood at $413,500, up 7.5 percent.

Among other Virginia locales, the Richmond region saw a 6.1-percent increase to a median sales price of $272,100 in the fourth quarter, while the Hampton Roads area posted a 5.4-percent jump to $236,000.

Figures are preliminary and subject to revision.

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