Sales of Existing Homes Soar as Demand Overcomes Tight Supplies

A so-so economy has not slowed the housing market, at least not in March, as existing-home sales bounced back big and remained slightly up from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Home resales were bolstered by big gains in the Northeast and Midwest. 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.
Sales rose in all four major regions last month and are up modestly (1.5 percent) from March 2015, the NAR said.
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.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says February’s uncharacteristically large decline also helped make March look so good.
“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, he added, sales are softer both at the very low and very high ends of the market because of “supply limitations and affordability pressures.”
Total housing inventory at the end of March increased 5.9 percent to 1.98 million existing homes available for sale. But that’s 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,” adds Yun. “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.”
Matching the lowest share since August 2015, properties typically stayed on the market for 47 days in March, a decrease from 59 days in February and below the 52 days in March 2015.

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