Existing-Home Sales Slip in Feb., But Up 9% from Year Ago

Existing-home sales in February unexpectedly declined from an upwardly-revised January pace, but remain well above a year ago ­ – with the median price gaining slightly, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Total existing-home sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – slipped 0.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million in February, from an upwardly revised 4.63 million in January
But sales are 8.8 percent higher than the 4.22 million-unit level in February 2011.
Sales were up in the Midwest and South, and were offset by declines in the Northeast and West.
“The market is trending up unevenly, with record high consumer buying power and sustained job gains giving buyers the confidence they need to get into the market,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.
An unusual combination of rising demand for both rental space and homeownership is likely to occur throughout the rest of the year, Yun said.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $156,600 in February, up 0.3 percent from February 2011.
Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts – accounted for 34 percent of February sales (20 percent were foreclosures and 14 percent were short sales), down from 35 percent in January and 39 percent in February 2011.
“The bottom line is investors and first-time buyers are competing for bargain-priced properties in much of the country, with home prices showing signs of stabilizing in many areas,” said NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates in Miami. “People realize that homeownership is an investment in their future. Given an apparent over-correction in most areas, over the long term home prices have nowhere to go but up.”
Total housing inventory at the end of February rose 4.3 percent to 2.43 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.4-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 6.0-month supply in January.
Unsold listed inventory has come down from a record 4.04 million in July 2007, and is 19.3 percent below a year ago.

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