National home prices in May increased 2.9% from a year ago, marking the fourth straight month of yearly growth, according to CoreLogic, an analytics and real estate services provider. Home prices on the CoreLogic home price index (HPI) have increased every month since the 0.3% yearly increase in February. The May increases come after a 2.6% yearly gain in April. Prices in May grew 0.9% from the month before, a smaller increase from the 1.3% gain from March to April. According to CoreLogic, sales in the bottom-tier of the market, those homes priced at 75% below the median, are driving the recent increases in overall prices. But anyone expecting continued increases the rest of the year may be too optimistic. “Home price appreciation stabilized as homebuyer tax credit driven sales peaked in late spring,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “But given that the labor market and income growth remain tepid, we expect prices to moderate and possibly decline the rest of the year.” And despite the recent trend in growth, prices still remain 28.5% below the peak in April 2006, according to CoreLogic. The states with the highest price increases in May were California (7.9%), Virginia (6.8%), Massachusetts (5.7%), Rhode Island (5.5%), and Vermont (5.1%). The statistics include distressed sales. The states with the most losses from last year were Idaho (-6.6%), Alabama (-5.3%), New Mexico (-4.2%), Maryland (-3.1%), and Wyoming (-3.1%). Write to Jon Prior.

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