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Existing-Home Sales Kick Off Strong Spring


After dismal numbers in February, home sales were back on track in March, ramping up for a strong spring selling season, the National Association of REALTORS® reported Wednesday. In particular, gains in the Northeast and Midwest helped fuel the rebound.

Total sales for existing homes surged 5.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million in March — up 1.5 percent from a year ago — according to NAR's latest existing-home sales data. The report shows that all four major regions of the U.S. posted gains.

"Closings came back in force last month as a greater number of buyers overcame depressed inventory levels and steady price growth to close on a home," says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Buyer demand remains sturdy in most areas this spring, and the mid-priced market is doing quite well. However, sales are softer both at the very low and very high ends of the market because of supply limitations and affordability pressures."

5 Stats to Gauge the Market

Here's an overview of some of the key stats from NAR's latest housing report:

  1. Home prices: The median price for an existing home in all housing types was $222,700 in March, up 5.7 percent from a year ago.

  2. Days on the market: Forty-two percent of homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month. But the overall average for time on market was 47 days, below the 52-day average a year ago. Short sales tended to linger on the market the longest, at a median of 120 days, while foreclosures typically sold in 50 days and non-distressed homes averaged 46 days.

  3. Distressed sales: Foreclosures and short sales dropped to 8 percent in March, down from 10 percent a year ago. Broken out, 7 percent of sales in March were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales. On average, foreclosures sold for a discount of 16 percent below market value while short sales were discounted 10 percent.

  4. All-cash sales: All-cash transactions comprised 25 percent of the market in March, up from 24 percent a year ago. Individual investors account for the bulk of cash sales and purchased 14 percent of homes in March, unchanged from a year ago.

  5. Inventory: The number of homes for sale rose 5.9 percent in March to 1.98 million. Still, that remains 1.5 percent lower than a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace.

"The choppiness in sales activity so far this year is directly related to the unevenness in the rate of new listings coming onto the market to replace what is, for the most part, being sold rather quickly," Yun says. "Additionally, a segment of would-be buyers at the upper end of the market appear to have been spooked by January's stock market correction."

Regional Breakdown

Here's a look at how existing-home sales fared across the country in March:

  • Northeast: Existing-home sales surged 11.1 percent to an annual rate of 700,000, which is 7.7 percent higher than a year ago. Median price: $254,100, up 5.8 percent from a year ago.

  • Midwest: Existing-home sales rose 9.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.23 million, which is 0.8 percent higher than a year ago. Median price: $174,800, up 7 percent from a year ago.

  • South: Existing-home sales increased 2.7 percent to an annual rate of 2.25 million, which is 2.3 percent higher than a year ago. Median price: $194,400, up 4.6 percent from a year ago.

  • West: Existing-home sales increased 1.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.15 million, which is 2.5 percent lower than a year ago. Median price: $320,800, up 5.9 percent from a year ago.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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