Prices for single-family homes climbed in three-quarters of U.S. cities and values nationally jumped the most since 2006 as real estate markets stabilized.

The median sales price increased in the second quarter from a year earlier in 110 of 147 metropolitan areas measured, the National Association of Realtors said in a report today. In the first quarter, 74 areas had gains.

U.S. housing prices are beginning to lift off the bottom after the worst housing slump since the 1930s as buyers compete for a tight supply of available properties. At the end of June, 2.39 million previously owned homes were available for sale, 24 percent fewer than a year earlier, the Realtors said.

"The turnaround in home prices feels pretty broad," Celia Chen, a housing economist at Moody's Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said yesterday. "There are still risks that home prices will dip a little more before they start appreciating with any consistency,"

One threat to home values ¼is the so-called shadow inventory of delinquent properties that have yet to enter the market. U.S. foreclosure starts rose 6 percent last month from July 2011, Irvine, California-based data provider RealtyTrac Inc. said today.

Distressed Deals

The national median existing single-family home price was $181,500 in the second quarter, up 7.3 percent from the same period last year, the strongest annual increase since the first quarter of 2006, according to the Realtors group. Distressed properties, including discounted foreclosures and short sales, in which the price is less than the mortgage balance, accounted for 26 percent of second-quarter deals, down from 33 percent a year earlier.

The share of all-cash home purchases was 29 percent in the second quarter, down from 30 percent in the second quarter of 2011. Investors, who make up the bulk of cash purchasers and compete with first-time buyers, accounted for 19 percent of all transactions, matching the share a year earlier.

The best-performing metro areas were Detroit and Phoenix, where prices increased 29 percent from a year earlier. Prices rose 22 percent in the Boise City, Idaho, area and 21 percent in Florence, South Carolina.

Price Declines

The Stamford, Connecticut, area, which also includes Bridgeport, had the biggest decline, with the median selling price dropping 13 percent in the quarter. It was followed by Edison, New Jersey, with an 9.5 percent decrease; and Gulfport- Biloxi, Mississippi, with a 9.4 percent drop.

Other indexes also showed gains in prices. Corelogic Inc. said nationwide home prices climbed 2.5 percent in June from a year earlier, the fourth consecutive increase, according to an Aug. 7 report by the Santa Ana, California-based data company.

Freddie Mac said prices gained 4.8 percent from March to June, the biggest quarterly pickup in eight years.

The shadow inventory may be less of a threat to the market because of a shrinking supply of vacant homes and a decline in the number of bank-owned properties for sale, the McLean, Virginia-based mortgage financier said yesterday.

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