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In a Twist, Both Home Prices and Rents Rise

Lane Oatey | Getty Images

Home prices across the nation continued their upswing in June, according to a new report from CoreLogic. Including sales of foreclosures and short sales \(selling for less than the value of the mortgage\), prices rose 2.5 percent from a year ago. That is not quite as high as the annual increases seen in April and May. With the first half of the year now on the books, analysts are asking if prices can sustain.

"At the halfway point, 2012 is increasingly looking like the year that the residential housing market may have turned the corner," said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. "While first-half gains have given way to second-half declines over the past three years, we see encouraging signs that modest price gains are supportable across the country in the second-half of 2012."

Home price gains will continue to be as much a factor of supply as they are of overall consumer confidence. While confidence in the overall economy has slipped slightly, optimism in the housing market remained strong in July, according to a just-released Fannie Mae survey:

"Survey respondents expect home prices to increase 1.7 percent in the next 12 months, down slightly from the survey high of 2.0 percent recorded in June. Eleven percent of respondents – the lowest level recorded since the survey began in June 2010 – believe home prices will drop in the next year. Also, in the highest level seen since the survey's inception, 16 percent of consumers say it is a good time to sell."

Still one quarter of respondents, an increase from June, are concerned about losing their jobs, and jobs have been the leading factor in the housing recovery. It is that unemployment uncertainty that has led so many younger Americans in the past few years to rent. That continued demand is pushing rents ever higher.

Asking rents rose in 24 of the 25 largest rental markets from a year ago, according to a new report from online real estate company Trulia. Rents are pushing double digit gains in San Francisco, Miami, Oakland, Denver, Seattle and Boston, and rents are rising faster than asking prices in 21 of the 25 largest rental markets year-over-year.

β€œFor the first time, [home] prices are up year over year in a majority of metros, and asking home prices have increased for six straight months," writes Trulia's chief economist Jed Kolko in a release. "Rents, however, are rising even faster than prices in most markets. These price and rent increases, along with declining vacancies, should encourage new construction, which means housing will finally start contributing to the economic recovery.”

The question remains, where is the tipping point? As it becomes more expensive to rent than buy in more markets, more Americans should turn to buying, but so far they are not. Issues with negative equity, credit and confidence continue to plague home buying.

And are rents approaching bubble status? Investors continue to flock to the distressed housing market, trying to take advantage of rising rents, specifically in single family. Many of those investors say they are not concerned about a bubble, believing there has been a sea change in attitudes toward home ownership that could last through the decade. Whether it is attitudes or lack of available credit keeping the rental market on a tear, at some point, as happened during the housing bubble, prices will prevail.

Questions? Comments? RealtyCheck@cnbc.comAnd follow me on Twitter @Diana_Olick

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  • Diana Olick serves as CNBC's real estate correspondent as well as the editor of the Realty Check section on CNBC.com.

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