Existing-home sales were down but continue to outpace year-ago levels

Existing-home sales were down in March but continue to outpace year-ago levels, while inventory tightened and home prices are showing further signs of stabilizing, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, town homes, condominiums and co-ops, declined 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.48 million in March from an upwardly revised 4.60 million in February, but are 5.2 percent above the 4.26 million-unit pace in March 2011.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the recovery is in the process of settling into a higher level of home sales.  “The recovery is happening though not at a breakout pace, but we have seen nine consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases,” he 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.”

“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.”

The national median existing-home price3 for all housing types was $163,800 in March, up 2.5 percent from March 2011.

NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami, said buyer traffic is up.  “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,” he 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.”

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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