Local home prices rose at a faster pace than those in almost all other top 20 metros, outpaced only by Portland, San Francisco and Denver.

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Seattle-area home prices surged in December, posting the fourth-highest annual gain among 20 metros, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index released Tuesday.

The average price of existing single-family homes sold in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties climbed 9.9 percent over the year in December, its fastest pace in 2015. In the 20-city index, Seattle trailed only Portland (11.4 percent), San Francisco (10.3) and Denver (10.2) in annual price increases.

Over the month, Seattle-area prices jumped 1.5 percent in December, after seasonal fluctuations are taken into account. December outpaced November’s 1.3 percent gain over the previous month, as the for-sale housing inventory hit its lowest level since at least 1993.

Nationally, prices in the 20-city index climbed 0.8 percent over the month in December, slowing a bit from a 1 percent increase in November. The index recorded a 5.7 percent annual gain.

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Home prices in all but one city are rising faster than inflation, said David Blitzer, chairman of S&P’s index committee. Some might take that as a sign of trouble, especially given the stock market’s turmoil this year and the current age of this economic expansion.

“The recovery is 6 years old, but recoveries do not typically die of old age,” Blitzer said in a statement.

Higher home prices are encouraging builders: “Housing construction, like much of the economy, got off to a slow start in 2009-2010 and is only now beginning to show some serious strength,” he said.

Average prices in the Seattle metro area in December were less than 3 percent below the peak set in summer 2007, according to Case-Shiller data. The 20-city index is still about 12 percent off its 2006 peak.

Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Seattle-based Zillow, the real-estate website, said in a statement that the nation’s housing market faces a few challenges this spring: Low housing inventory is a factor in nearly every market now. Low oil prices are a drag on job growth in the Dakotas, Alaska and Texas. And the stronger U.S. dollar will affect demand from foreign buyers, while keeping mortgage-interest rates low.