Home prices in major cities across the nation increased 19.8% in February year over year, according to the latest figures reported Tuesday from the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index.

That’s up from a 19.1% year-over-year increase in January — and is the third-highest reading in the index’s 35-year history.

It shows U.S. housing prices continued to spike rapidly heading into spring, signaling that Americans rushed to buy homes before inflation and rising mortgage rates hit the market.

The housing market saw “a renewed sense of urgency in February, as buyers worked through a small number of homes for sale in an effort to get ahead of surging mortgage rates,” George Ratiu, senior economist and manager of economic research at Realtor.com, said in a statement.

“The imbalance between strong demand and insufficient supply pushed prices 19.8% higher compared with a year ago,” Ratiu said.

Signs of a ‘cooling’ market: The February figures came before mortgage rates rose sharply in March when the Federal Reserve began to raise interest rates, and they don’t reflect the most recent housing market activity in wake of those rate hikes.

Such high home price increases may not last, said Craig Lazzara, managing director at S&P DJI, in a news release.

“The macroeconomic environment is evolving rapidly and may not support extraordinary home price growth for much longer,” Lazzara said.

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“The post-COVID resumption of general economic activity has stoked inflation, and the Federal Reserve has begun to increase interest rates in response. We may soon begin to see the impact of increasing mortgage rates on home prices.”

Ratiu shared a similar insight, noting real estate markets “experienced a rush of changes over the past two months” due to a strong labor market driving up wages and inflation, tight housing inventory and supply chain interruptions from the war in Ukraine. Not to mention interest rates at 11-year highs.

“As we move through the spring housing market, we are seeing clear signs of cooling demand,” Ratiu said. “Many buyers are deciding to take a step back and reevaluate their budgets and timelines. Markets seem to be stepping back from the overheated environment of the past year.”

For buyers, high housing price jumps have “translated into sticker shock,” Ratiu said, noting that the monthly payment for a 30-year mortgage on a median-priced home is $550 higher than it was a year ago. That’s a 46% jump.

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Today’s mortgage rates: The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage hit 5.42% on Tuesday, according to Bankrate.com.

Which cities saw the highest housing price increases?

Phoenix, Tampa and Miami reported the highest year-over-year gains in February out of the 20 cities included in the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices.

  • Phoenix led the way with a 32.9% year over year jump.
  • Tampa followed with a 32.6% increase.
  • Miami came in third place with a 29.7% increase.

All 20 cities, however, reported double-digit increases in the year ending in February versus the year ending in January.

Phoenix’s price growth led all cities for the 33rd consecutive month, although prices were strongest in the South and Southeast, both about 28%, but “every region continued to show impressive gains,” Lazzara said.

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