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US home prices rose 3% year over year in February

JOSH BOAK
FILE - In this Feb. 20, 2019, file photo a girl pushes herself on a scooter by a home for sale in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, Texas. On Tuesday, April 30, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index for February is released. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home prices increased at a slower pace in February, a sign that several years of outsized gains in home values have created affordability challenges in many metro areas.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 3% from a year earlier, down from an annual gain of 3.5% in January.

After the damage from the 2008 financial crisis began to fade, home values started to climb in 2012 and consistently outstripped wage growth. This made it more difficult for would-be buyers to save for a down payment and existing home owners to upgrade to a more expensive property.

Price increases were strongest in the Sunbelt, a change from past years in which the largest gains came from West Coast cities such as Seattle and San Francisco. Last Vegas reported the largest price increase at 9.7%, followed by Phoenix at 6.7% and Tampa with a 5.4%.

Meanwhile, major California metro areas lost much of their momentum. San Francisco prices rose just 1.4%, San Diego by 1.1% and Los Angeles by 1.8%. These gains are now below the gains in national average hourly earnings, which the Labor Department has reported are up 3.2%.