Report: Existing home sales spring forward in March

By JERAMY GORDON
STAFF WRITER

Bolstered by major gains in the Northeast and Midwest, existing home sales saw a major boost in March, compared to the previous month, and are now slightly up from a year ago this time, a new report from the National Association of Realtors shows.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, jumped 5.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million in March from a downwardly revised 5.07 million in February.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun called February’s decline “uncharacteristic” and said he wasn’t surprised by the March recovery.

“Closings came back in force last month as a greater number of buyers – mostly in the Northeast and Midwest – overcame depressed inventory levels and steady price growth to close on a home,” he said. “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.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $222,700, up 5.7 percent from March 2015 ($210,700). March's price increase marks the 49th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of March increased 5.9 percent to 1.98 million existing homes available for sale, but is still 1.5 percent lower than a year ago (2.01 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.4 months in February.

“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 said. “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.”

March existing home sales breakdown by region

  • Existing-home sales in the Northeast were up 11.1 percent to an annual rate of 700,000, and are now 7.7 percent above a year ago.
  • In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 9.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.23 million, and are now 0.8 percent above March 2015.
  • Existing-home sales in the South rose 2.7 percent to an annual rate of 2.25 million, and are 2.3 percent above March 2015.
  • Existing-home sales in the West climbed 1.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.15 million, but are 2.5 percent lower than a year ago.

Published April 21, 2016

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