Existing-home sales rose in April

Existing-home sales, including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million units in April from a downwardly revised pace of 4.55 million units in March. Yet, home sales were 3.5 percent below the 4.85 million-unit level in April 2008, according to NAR.

NAR chief economist says first-time buyers continue to influence the market but there also is a seasonal rise of repeat buyers.

“Most of the sales are taking place in lower price ranges and activity is beginning to pickup in the mid-price ranges, but high-end home sales remain sluggish,” he says. “The Federal Reserve needs to help restore liquidity for the jumbo mortgage market by buying these loans under the TALF program.”

Buyer’s Once Again Emerge

An NAR practitioner survey in April showed first-time buyers declined to 40 percent of transactions, implying more repeat buyers are entering the traditional spring home-buying season. It also showed the number of buyers looking at homes has increased 14 percentage points from a year ago.

“This is consistent with our forecast for home sales in the latter part of the year to be 10 to 20 percent higher than the second half of 2008,” Yun says.

It’s critical that distressed homes be quickly cleared from the market, Yun says.

“Fortunately, home buyers are being attracted to deeply discounted prices and are bidding up many foreclosed listings, particularly in California, Nevada, and Florida – this will set the stage for healthy market conditions going forward,” Yun says.

NAR President Charles McMillan says conditions are optimal for buyers with good jobs and long-term plans.

“We have record low mortgage interest rates, a wide selection of homes and affordable prices in most areas,” he says. “When you add the $8,000 first-time buyer tax credit, it’s hard to imagine a better time to make an investment in your future through homeownership.”

A Closer Look at the Numbers By Region

NAR reported the following with existing-home sales across the country:

  • Northeast: jumped 11.6 percent to an annual pace of 770,000 in April, but are 10.5 percent below April 2008. Median price: $237,400, which is 9.6 percent lower than a year ago.
  • Midwest: slipped 2 percent in April to a level of 1.00 million and are 9.9 percent lower than a year ago. Median price: $138,800, down 11.7 percent from April 2008.
  • South: increased 1.8 percent to an annual pace of 1.74 million in April but are 8.9 percent lower than April 2008. Median price: $148,000, which is 12.8 percent below a year ago.
  • West: rose 3.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.17 million in April and are 19.4 percent higher than a year ago. Median price: $222,600, down 21.8 percent from April 2008.
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