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According to the most recent Kiplinger forecast, the pace of price hikes will ease next year as supply and demand come into better balance. The predicted national average in 2014, say 4 percent or so, is roughly half the 8.5 percent price increase likely to be racked up in this unusual year.

Then, according to Kiplinger, a gradual return to the historical norm, with average home values rising by about one percentage point more than the inflation rate each year.

Meanwhile, a closer look at the situation today is revealing. Price hikes of 15 percent -22 percent are extreme. But consider the starting point. Existing homes in Las Vegas and Phoenix, up 22 percent from early 2012 to early 2013, are still more than 40 percent below their peaks. In San Francisco, L.A., Atlanta, Detroit and others experiencing strong appreciation (16 percent or more), prices remain 17- 45 percent below their highs. Only a few major metro areas are at or close to previous peaks. Denver, for example, is there, but the Mile High City never experienced the extremes of the bubble and bust. San Jose, Calif., the heart of Silicon Valley, is 5 percent off its peak.

Homes, on the whole, remain affordable, notes Kiplinger. Only 13 percent of median family income is typically being chewed up by mortgage payments. Compare that with 24 percent in 2006.

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