Washington, April 22, 2010
Buyers responding to the homebuyer tax credit and favorable affordability conditions boosted existing-home sales in March, marking the beginning of an expected spring surge, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 6.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million units in March from 5.01 million in February, and are 16.1 percent above the 4.61 million-unit level in March 2009.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said it is encouraging to see a broad home sales recovery in nearly every part of the country, with two important underlying trends. “Sales have been above year-ago levels for nine straight months, and inventory has trended down from year-ago levels for 20 months running,” he said. “The home buyer tax credit has been a resounding success as these underlying trends point to a broad stabilization in home prices. This is preserving perhaps $1 trillion in largely middle class housing wealth that may have been wiped out without the housing stimulus measure.”
Total housing inventory at the end of March rose 1.5 percent to 3.58 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.0-month supply2 at the current sales pace, down from an 8.5-month supply in February. Raw unsold inventory is 1.8 percent below a year ago, and is 21.7 percent below the record of 4.58 million in July 2008.
“Foreclosures have been feeding into the inventory pipeline at a fairly steady pace and are being absorbed manageably,” Yun said. “In fact, foreclosures are selling quickly, especially in the lower price ranges that are attractive to first-time home buyers.”
A parallel NAR practitioner survey3 shows first-time buyers purchased 44 percent of homes in March, up from 42 percent in February. Investors accounted for 19 percent of transactions in March, unchanged from February; the remaining sales were to repeat buyers. All-cash sales remain elevated at 27 percent in March, the same as in February.
The national median existing-home price4 for all housing types was $170,700 in March, up 0.4 percent from March 2009. Distressed homes, typically sold at a 15 percent discount, accounted for 35 percent of sales last month – unchanged from February.
“With home values stabilizing, a revival in home buying confidence will likely help the housing market get back on its feet even as the tax credit impact disappears,” Yun said.
NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz., said buying conditions are in near-perfect alignment. “Even with tougher loan standards, historically low mortgage interest rates with affordable prices and a sense that the market is turning have created optimal conditions in much of the country,” she said.
“With the fast approaching April 30 deadline to get a contract in place for the tax credit, Realtors® are working harder than ever to negotiate transactions, arrange services and complete paperwork,” Golder said. “Because many repeat buyers need to sell their current home first, many will be purchasing later without the tax credit but now have the benefit of a more buoyant housing market.”
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 4.97 percent in March from 4.99 percent in February; the rate was 5.00 percent in March 2009.
Single-family home sales rose 7.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million in March from a level of 4.36 million in February, and are 13.3 percent above the 4.13 million level a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $170,700 in March, up 0.6 percent from March 2009.
Single-family median prices rose in 14 out of 20 metropolitan statistical areas reported in March in comparison with a year earlier. Five metro areas experienced double-digit increases, including San Diego, St. Louis and Boston.
Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 3.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 670,000 in March from 650,000 in February, and are 39.3 percent higher than the 481,000-unit level in March 2009. The median existing condo price5 was $170,600 in March, which is 0.7 percent below a year ago.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast increased 6.0 percent to an annual level of 890,000 in March and are 25.4 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $249,800, up 8.9 percent from March 2009.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 7.2 percent in March to a pace of 1.19 million and are 15.5 percent above March 2009. The median price in the Midwest was $139,300, up 0.2 percent from a year ago.
In the South, existing-home sales increased 7.1 percent to an annual level of 1.97 million in March and are 13.9 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $154,800, up 5.2 percent from March 2009.
Existing-home sales in the West rose 6.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.30 million in March and are 14.0 percent above March 2009. The median price in the West was $209,400, down 7.9 percent from a year ago.
The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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NOTE: NAR also reports monthly comparisons of existing single-family home sales and median prices for 20 select metropolitan statistical areas, which is posted with other tables at: http://www.realtor.org/research/research/ehsdata. For information on areas not included in the report, please contact the local association of Realtors®.
1Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings. This differs from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which generally account for 85 to 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger sample – more than 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.
The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.
Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.
2Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, condos were measured quarterly while single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions).
3First-time buyer and distressed sales data are from the Realtor® Confidence Index.
4The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to the seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if more data is received than was originally reported.
5Because there is a concentration of condos in high-cost metro areas, the national median condo price generally is higher than the median single-family price. In a given market area, condos typically cost less than single-family homes.
Existing-home sales for April will be released May 24, 2010. The next Pending Home Sales Index is scheduled for May 4; release times are 10 a.m. EDT.
Information about NAR is available at http://www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the News Media section. Statistical data in this release, other tables and surveys also may be found by clicking on Research.
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of REALTORS® | Headquarters: 430 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60611