South Florida’s home prices made another double-digit gain in July, but the rapid ascent has slowed and may have already reached its peak, according to the nation’s leading home price measure.

Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties, saw prices on single-family homes jump 13.7 percent compared with July 2012 as recorded by the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index released Tuesday.

Economist David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee, said South Florida is among seven of the 20 metropolitan areas measured by the index that had lower annual growth rates than in previous months. In June, South Florida’s gain was 14.7 percent. May saw a 14.2 percent increase.

Monthly measures also saw a slowdown in South Florida. July prices were 1.2 percent higher than June, but June was 2.1 percent higher than May.

“When a recovery occurs from the kind of collapse that we had in home markets, it starts slow and builds to a strong peak,” Blitzer said. “At some point those gains have to slow and we are there or approaching that point.”

Nationally, the 20 regions measured by the index had price increases of 12.4 percent compared to July of last year. Prices were up 1.8 percent from June. Las Vegas saw the biggest annual increase at 27.5 percent.

The Case-Shiller index measures sales compared with January 2000 when the index was set at 100. For each region reviewed, the index provides a three-month moving average price. It does not include condominium sales.

Despite the steep price increases, Blitzer said the housing market is not headed toward another bubble. Rising mortgage interest should put the brakes on spiking prices, Blitzer said. Last week’s announcement that the Federal Reserve will continue its economic stimulus will have only a “limited, though favorable impact on housing.”

But at least one South Florida real estate analyst is bucking the no-bubble theory, saying South Florida is careening toward another market crash.

Jack McCabe, chief executive of McCabe Research & Consulting in Deerfield Beach, said price increases driven by Wall Street investors are artificial and will eventually deflate.

“Absolutely, without a doubt, we are on the cusp of the next great boom and bust cycle,” McCabe said. “If you’re buying now, have the mentality that you will sell in five years or be ready to hold it 10 years or longer.”

South Florida’s prices are still 40 percent below where they were during the peak of the market in December 2006, according to Case-Shiller.

July’s price level puts South Florida about even with where it was in March 2004.

In Palm Beach County, a lack of inventory has contributed to rapid price gains. There was just a 4.8 months’ supply of homes for sale in July, down from eight months during the same time last year. A six months’ supply is traditionally considered a good balance between supply and demand.

“Anything under $600,000, there really isn’t much quality product out there,” said Lang Realty President Scott Agran. “We’re still in a supply and demand imbalance that will continue to push prices up, but probably not with the same velocity.”

by Kimberly Miller