And the boom continued to be widespread. According to data collected from mortgages involving Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, which OFHEO oversees, all but one of the 275 major metropolitan areas the agency surveyed showed rising values from 2004 to 2005. The most notable gains were in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area of Arizona, where home prices have already almost doubled in the last five years. Last year, prices rose again by nearly 40%. Arizona's hot housing market helped push it, and its neighboring Mountain states Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana and Utah to the top of OFHEO's list of fastest-growing regions. The Pacific region Washington, Oregon and California came in next with regional prices increases of 18.75%. Home prices on the East Coast, in states from Maryland to Florida, showed their fastest growth rate since 1975, jumping nearly 18%. The smallest gains continued to occur in New England and the Midwest, where prices still managed to increase by about 10% and 7% respectively.
So given all those encouraging signs, is it still likely that the real estate market's bubble will actually burst anytime soon? "The market's been incredibly strong," says OFHEO's chief economist, Patrick Lawler. "But the rises we've seen over the last couple of years just aren't sustainable."
A report released on Monday by the National Association of Realtors seems to agree. Sales of previously owned homes fell by nearly 3% in January, the fifth monthly decline in a row. The Realtors' group also estimates that more than a half-million new homes are sitting unsold, staying on the market about five months, the longest time in a decade. While that may sound like bad news for sellers, buyers are happily finding more time to pick and choose property. According to NAR's chief economist, David Lereah, "This looks like we're touching down for the soft landing we've been expecting."