Blackstone Group LP, the largest U.S. private real estate owner, accelerated purchases of single-family homes as prices jumped faster than it anticipated.

Blackstone has spent more than $2.5 billion on 16,000 homes to manage as rentals, deploying capital from the $13.3 billion fund it raised last year, said Jonathan Gray, global head of real estate for the world’s largest private equity firm. That’s up from $1 billion of homes owned in October, when Blackstone Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said the company was spending $100 million a week on houses.

“The market is moving much faster than anybody thought possible,” Gray said during an interview in Blackstone’s New York headquarters. “Housing is much stronger than people anticipated.”

Blackstone is the largest investor in single-family homes to manage as rentals, acquiring properties in nine cities, from Miami to Phoenix, where prices surged 22 percent in the 12 months through October. The firm, along with Thomas Barrack’s Colony Capital LLC and Two Harbors Investment Corp., is seeking to transform a market dominated by small investors into a new institutional asset class that JPMorgan Chase & Co. estimates could be worth as much as $1.5 trillion.

The market, which has been “dominated by ‘Mom and Pop’ owners” could total 12 million homes and be double the size of the institutional multifamily market, JPMorgan analysts led by Anthony Paolone, wrote in a note yesterday. “A corporate structure with institutional capital around the business makes sense.”

Racing Recovery

Blackstone, which started buying the properties last year, has been racing against the real-estate recovery as prices across the U.S. rose more than economists forecast, with the areas hardest hit by the crash rebounding the most.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities increased 4.3 percent in the 12 months through October, the biggest 12-month advance since May 2010, the group said last month in New York. Prices will gain 3.3 percent in 2013 after an estimated 4.5 percent jump last year, based on the median estimates of 15 economists and housing analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Blackstone is buying in Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Northern and Southern California; Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Florida -- where prices fell so far that they “overshot,” said David Roth, managing director at Blackstone overseeing single-family home rentals.

‘Warehousing’ Homes