NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- In another sign of a turnaround in the long-battered real estate market, average home prices rebounded in July to the same level as they were nine years ago.
According to the closely watched S&P/Case-Shiller national home price index, which covers more than 80% of the housing market in the United States, the typical home price in July rose 1.6% compared to the previous month.
It marked the third straight month that prices in all 20 major markets followed by the index improved, and it would have been the fourth straight month of improvement across the full spectrum if not for a slight decline in Detroit in April.
The index was up 1.2% compared to a year earlier, an improvement from the year-over-year change reported for June. While home prices have been showing a sequential change in recent months, it wasn't until June that prices were higher than a year earlier.
The July reading matched levels last seen in summer 2003, when the market was rising toward its peak in 2006. The collapse of the market after that led to the financial crisis of 2008.
"The news on home prices in this report confirm recent good news about housing," said David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "Single-family housing starts are well ahead of last year's pace, existing home sales are up, the inventory of homes for sale is down and foreclosure activity is slowing."
Record low mortgage rates and a tighter supply of homes available for sale have helped to lift home prices. Lower unemployment also has helped with home prices, although job growth in recent months has been slower than hoped.
Mike Larson, real estate analyst with Weiss Research, said part of the improvement in the housing market is due to investors using the low mortgage rates to buy up homes that are in foreclosure and renting them in a strong rental market. But he said that he doesn't think there's much chance of housing prices shooting higher and forming any kind of new bubble any time in the foreseeable future.
"Clearly the worst is behind us for this market., but this is not a market that is going to take off again," he said. "While you have a firming up, you still have tight lending standards and people who have been burned are reluctant or unable to get back in the market." He predicts it will take several more years before housing prices can gain more than 1% to 2% a year.
But given the decline in prices that happened from the peak of the housing market.