A new record for U.S. home prices, at least by one measure

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

South Florida home prices are coming back strong, but they remain well below boomtime levels, according to the widely watched S&P/Case-Shiller index.

As of September, home prices in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties posted a 6.7 percent gain over the past year. South Florida values remain 23 percent below their 2006 peak, however.

In one bit of hopeful news, the S&P/Case-Shiller index said Tuesday that, by one of its measures of national home values, prices reached a new record in September, eclipsing the previous high set in 2007. On further review, says Trulia Chief Economist Ralph McLaughlin, the new record isn’t especially exciting.

“Crossing this threshold is largely symbolic,” he said. “After controlling for inflation, home prices in the U.S. are still about 20 percent below the peak.”

Trulia calls Palm Beach County obvious place to buy rather than rent

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In Palm Beach County, the rent-or-buy decision is a no-brainer. It’s 41 percent cheaper to buy than to rent, according to a study released Wednesday by Trulia.

Palm Beach County boasts one of the nation’s biggest discounts for buying vs. renting, ranking 12th among the 100 largest metro areas. Trulia bases its calculation on Palm Beach County’s median home price of $231,491 and median rent of $1,800 as of last month.

Houston, with a 46 percent discount, is the best buyer’s market. Fort Lauderdale ranks No. 4, with a 44 percent spread. Miami is No. 5 at 43 percent.

Honolulu and San Jose, California, are the markets where it makes the most sense to rent. In Honolulu, the typical home costs more than $600,000, but typical rent is only $2,500.