Sales Decline as Investors Withdraw

Existing home sales decreased 0.6% in March from a downwardly revised level in February, but were still up 10.3% from the same period a year ago. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that March 2013 total existing home sales were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.92 million units combined for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops. That compares to 4.95 million units in February, and 4.46 million units during the same period a year ago.

 Existing Home Sales March 2013

The March 2013 level of single-family existing sales decreased 0.2% from February to a seasonally adjusted 4.32 million sales, but was up 9.1% from the same month a year ago. Seasonally adjusted condominium and co-op sales, which had increased in February, decreased 3.2% from February to a seasonally adjusted 600,000 units in March, and were up 20.0% from the same period a year ago.

The total housing inventory at the end of March increased 1.6% from the previous month to 1.93 million existing homes for sale. At the current sales rate, the March 2013 inventory represents a 4.7-month supply compared to a 4.6-month supply in February, and a 6.2-month supply of homes a year ago. The March inventory of condominiums/co-ops, by contrast, decreased 4.1% from February to 4.7 months.

Some 21% of sales in March 2013 were distressed, defined as foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts. This level was down from 25% in February and 29% during the same month a year ago.

The median sales price for existing homes of all types in March 2013 was $184,300, up from $173,200 in February, and up 11.8% from the same period a year ago. NAR reported that March represented the thirteenth consecutive monthly year-over-year price increase. The median condominium/co-op price increased from $171,200 in February to $178,900 in March, and was up 10.4% from a year ago.

In March 2013, all cash sales were 30% of transactions compared to 32% in February, and 32% in March 2012. Investors accounted for 19% of March 2013 home sales, compared to 22% in February and 21% a year ago. First-time buyers accounted for 30% of March 2013 sales, the same as the previous three months although down from 33% during the same period a year ago.

The increase in March inventory suggests that rising prices are inducing more households to place their homes on the market, after previously holding back because of low prices. Those same rising prices may be dampening the enthusiasm of investors and cash buyers whose participation declined in March.

The moderating of March existing home sales was consistent with the 0.4% decrease in the February 2013 Pending Home Sales Index.



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  1. Smart investors though invest now, because of this market climate.

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