Watch These U.S. Home Prices Jump, and Exult -- or Despair

(Bloomberg) -- If you’re hunkered down in California or Colorado, this chart of U.S. home prices might just make your day. If you’re house-hunting there, it might spoil it.

Watch These U.S. Home Prices Jump, and Exult -- or Despair

That’s because home-price gains in the U.S. in January, which surged past expectations, were driven by huge increases in the West and Southwest as listings grew scarce, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said in a statement Thursday.

While prices nationwide jumped 7.3 percent from a year earlier, they were up 10 percent in the Mountain region, including Colorado, Nevada and Arizona. The Pacific area, which includes California, Washington and Oregon, rose 9.4 percent. Even where growth was less dramatic, gains accelerated. In New England, for example, prices were up 7.1 percent from January 2017. Back then, they were up only 4.6 percent from a year earlier.

The month-to-month increase was hefty as well. U.S. home prices rose 0.8 percent from December, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the FHFA said. That’s twice the 0.4 percent average estimate of 11 economists.

The FHFA index measures transactions for single-family properties financed with mortgages owned or securitized by the government-sponsored companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The U.S. housing market -- and the hapless buyers in it -- are suffering from a supply crunch, partly because builders haven’t kept up with demand and many seniors are choosing to stay in their homes rather than downsize. It could get even harder to buy. Mortgage interest, currently averaging 4.4 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate loan, will keep rising, according to Freddie Mac, which released its monthly outlook for March on Thursday and forecast a jump to 4.9 percent in the fourth quarter.

Freddie sees home prices rising 5.1 percent this year. They’re up 37 percent since the recession, according to the report.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.