Rising rents outpacing home sale prices

"Rising prices have taken pressure off the presidential candidates from having to come up with detailed plans to help the housing market, and that’s a big reason why they haven’t focused on housing in the 2012 campaign."

Rents were up even in cities where sales prices fell, with bumps of 7.7 percent in Chicago and 8.6 percent in Philadelphia. 

Excluding foreclosures, asking prices rose 3.6 percent. 

Home prices were up year over year in 69 of the 100 largest metros, with prices in Phoenix up almost 25 percent, while they were down more than 5 percent in Chicago. 

The top 10 price increases, which ranged from 8.7 to 24.9 percent, included three cities in California — San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco.

By the end of December, prices nationally should be just 1.1 percent below their level in January 2009.

Houston led the way in rising rents, with the top 10 metros seeing increases between 6 and 16.5 percent in the past year. 

"Continued widespread price increases are good for homeowners but not for home-seekers," Kolko said. "For homeowners, rising prices add to their wealth and help bring underwater borrowers closer to positive equity. For home-seekers, however, rising prices could put homeownership out of reach."