The median sales price for existing homes in each of more than 180 metro areas tracked by the National Association of Realtors rose in the fourth quarter from a year earlier ( the second consecutive quarter ). In the fourth quarter, 161 metro areas posted double-digit-percentage price increases, up from 115 metro areas with double-digit gains in the third quarter. Home sales in 2020 rose 5.6% to the highest pace since 2006, NAR said.

“People are willing to move farther out because they only have to go to the office once or twice a week, or month,” said Richard Whiteley, co-president and chief operating officer at IHP Capital Partners, which invests in new-home construction and land development. “There’s a race for space.”

The biggest home-price gainers in the fourth quarter were in the Northeast, led by the area around the seaport city of Bridgeport, Conn., where prices shot up 39.2% from a year earlier. In Pittsfield, Mass., they rose 32.2%, while in the coastal resort town of Atlantic City, N.J., home prices gained 30%. In the fourth quarter, the typical monthly mortgage payment ticked upward to $1,040, from $1,020 a year earlier, NAR said, even as mortgage rates declined.

“It is increasingly becoming concerning, about potential first-time buyers,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “With prices rising, it simply is kicking them out of the buying pool.”

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