March Sales Roar Like a Lion

Existing home sales, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), surged 4.4% in March to the highest pace in ten years. At the current sales rate, the March unsold inventory represents a 3.8-month supply, unchanged from February. March existing sales were up 5.9% from the same month a year ago, and reached a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.71 million compared to a downwardly revised 5.47 million in February. Total existing home sales include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.

March existing sales increased 10.1% in the Northeast, 9.2% in the Midwest and 3.4% in the South, while decreasing 1.6% in the West. Year-over-year, all regions advanced, ranging from 8.5% in the South to 3.1% in the Midwest.

Total housing inventory increased 5.8% in March, but remained 6.6% below the level a year ago, and has declined year-over-year for 22 straight months. Homes stayed on the market for only 34 days in March, down from 45 days in February and 47 days during the same month a year ago. Some 48% of homes sold in March were on the market less than a month, compared to 42% of homes sold in February and 38% January.

The March all-cash sales share decreased to 23%, down from 27% in February and 25% a year ago.  Individual investors purchased a 15% share in March, down from a 17% share in February, but unchanged from the same month a year ago. Some 63% of investors paid cash in March, down from 71% of investors in February. The first-time home buyer share remained at 32% in March, but was up from 30% a year ago.

The March median sales price jumped 6.8% from last year to $236,400, representing the 61st consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The March median condominium/co-op price of $224,700 was up 8.0% from the same month a year ago.

Pending sales increased 5.5% last month, so the increase in existing sales was not unexpected. NAR states that “Last month’s swift price gains and the remarkably short time a home was on the market are directly the result of the homebuilding industry’s struggle to meet the dire need for more new homes.” However, builders continue to address the low inventory of homes as builder sentiment held firm in April. Both jobs and incomes are growing, suggesting an improving market for new single-family construction.



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