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US home prices rose before viral outbreak shut economy


WASHINGTON — U.S home prices were rising at a steady pace in February, before the viral outbreak shuttered much of the economy and caused a sharp decline in home sales.

March sales of new and existing homes then plummeted as much of the U.S. population sheltered in place.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 3.5% in February from a year ago, up from a 3.1% increase in January. Solid hiring at the start of the year and low mortgage rates had supported rising home sales and prices, but that has deteriorated rapidly.

Existing home sales fell 8.5% in March, according to the National Association of Realtors, while new home sales fell 15.4%, the government said.

Home price gains will likely slow in the coming months with sellers forced to cut asking prices. However, fewer properties are being listed for sale with activity all but shut down, which could provide some pricing support.

Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press

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