Existing-home sales were in March maintained year-over-year increases, according to new data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Total existing-home sales, which includes the completed transactions of single-family homes, townhouses, co-ops and condos, increased 5.2 percent above the 4.26 million in March 2011, but were down 2.6 percent from February to March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.48 million.
Moe Veissi, the president of NAR, said that compared to last year, there is a definite uptick in sales activity.
“Our members are reporting an increase in foot traffic from a year ago, but more importantly, home shoppers this year are much more serious about finding the right home and making an offer,” Veissi said. “Stabilizing home prices and historically favorable affordability conditions are giving buyers more confidence, and Realtors® have become more optimistic since the beginning of the year from the positive shift in buyer patterns.”
Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said that despite the uneven nature of the housing recovery, there are definite incentives in today’s real estate market.
“The recovery is happening though not at a breakout pace, but we have seen nine consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases,” Yun said. “Existing-home sales are moving up and down in a fairly narrow range that is well above the level of activity during the first half of last year. With job growth, low interest rates, bargain home prices and an improving economy, the pent-up demand is coming to market and we expect housing to be notably better this year.”
Housing inventory also declined in March, falling another 1.3 percent to 2.37 million existing homes, or a 6.3-month supply. Total listed inventory is 21.8 percent lower than in 2011, and is even further from the 4.04 million properties that were listed in July 2007, when inventories peaked.
Though NAR had previously been optimistic about the inventory declines, given the thorny nature of excess housing and its impact on price, Yun did mention some of the trend’s negatives, which we’ve reported on before.
“We were expecting a seasonal increase in home listings, but a lack of inventory has suddenly become an issue in several markets with not enough homes for sale in relation to buyer interest,” Yun said. “Home sales could be held back because of supply factors and not by demand – we’re already seeing this in the Western states and in South Florida.”
Additional details in NAR’s report included:
- The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $163,800 in March, up 2.5 percent from March 2011.
- 29 percent of sales were for distressed homes, down from 40 percent a year ago.
- Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 19 percent, and short sales for 16 percent.
- All-cash sales fell 1 percent from February to March to 32 percent, as did investor purchases, which fell from 23 percent of sales in February to 21 percent in March.
In the South, existing-home sales slipped 1.1 percent to an annual level of 1.75 million in March, which is still 3.6 percent higher than a year ago. The median price was $146,500, up 6.2 percent from March 2011.