U.S. home prices are up for a sixteenth consecutive month, rising a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent in May, according to new figures from the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

That figure is based on home purchase mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. On an annual basis, prices are up 7.3 percent nationally compared to their May 2012 levels.

The FHFA index shows that, nationally, home prices remain 11.3 percent below their pre-crash highs reached in April 2007. Overall, the national index is at roughly the same level as in January 2005, though price recoveries around the nation have been uneven, depending on the region.

Recent price gains have been driven by strong real estate markets in the western portion of the nation, with double-digit annual price gains in the Pacific and Mountain regions of the U.S. Census districts. Home prices in the Pacific states are up 15.8 percent over their May 2012 levels, while the Mountain states showed an annual gain of 12.7 percent, despite a 0.1 percent one-month decline in May.

Those two regions generally comprise all the states of the Rocky Mountains and westward.

Four-state region shows slowest gains

The nation's weakest housing market is the East South Central region, which posted a 1.5 percent one-month decline in May, reducing its annual price increase to only 2.7 percent. Those were the worst monthly and annual price changes of all nine Census districts. That region consists of the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

Strong price gains have been seen in the South Atlantic region, which posted an 8.0 percent annual gain in May and a one-month increase of 1.8 percent, the most of all nine districts. That region comprises all the Atlantic coast states from Maryland to Florida, plus West Virginia.

Annual price gains for the other regions of the nation are as follows: West South Central, 6.1 percent; East North Central, 4.7 percent; West North Central, 4.4 percent; New England, 3.9 percent; Middle Atlantic, 3.3 percent.

Published on July 24, 2013