Home values grow at fastest pace in two years, Zillow says

Good news for Americans looking to sell a home.

The country’s median home value is now $189,400, up 5.5 percent from the same month a year ago, according to Zillow’s September market report.

Scarcity is one obvious reason. The online real estate database said inventory has been falling steadily, with about 4 to 6 percent fewer homes for sale over the past several months. But the biggest driver has been increased demand. Sales have increased substantially since 2011, despite fewer homes on the market, Zillow said.

The biggest drop in the number of homes for sale was in Indianapolis and Boston, down 26 and 25 percent, respectively, over the past year.

But booming tech cities like Dallas, Portland and Seattle reported the highest year-over-year home value appreciation among the 35 largest metro areas in the country. Portland home values rose almost 15 percent to a median value of $342,100, while home values in Dallas and Seattle appreciated 12 and 11 percent, respectively.

Bidding wars are now commonplace in many housing markets nationwide, as multiple buyers compete for the same home and only 46 percent of buyers purchase the first home on which they make an offer. According to Zillow, a home search takes an average of 4.2 months.

“Increasingly strong demand has been contributing to dwindling inventory stocks across the nation,” Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell said in a statement. “It’s definitely a seller’s market right now, with some homes being more expensive than ever.”

Rents are also rising across the country, but have slowed considerably over the past year as the sales market has grown. In September 2015, median rents were up 5.3 percent year-over-year, but have slowed to 1.5 percent annual appreciation. The U.S. median monthly rent is now $1,403.

But in the hottest markets, both sales and rents have risen. Portland, Sacramento and Seattle reported the highest year-over-year rent appreciation among the 35 largest U.S. housing markets. Rents in Seattle are up more than 9 percent and up 7 percent in Portland, said Zillow. And red-hot Seattle has the fastest year-over-year rent appreciation among the 35 largest U.S. housing markets for the fourth month in a row.

  • Ed Leefeldt

    Ed Leefeldt is an award-winning investigative and business journalist who has worked for Reuters, Bloomberg and Dow Jones, and contributed to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He is also the author of The Woman Who Rode the Wind, a novel about early flight.