Sellers Get Off the Fence: Existing Sales and Inventory Increase


Existing home sales increased 0.8% in February from an upwardly revised level in January, and were up 10.2% from the same period a year ago. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that February 2013 total existing home sales were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.98 million units combined for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops. That compares to 4.94 million units in January, and 4.52 million units during the same period a year ago.

The February 2013 level of single-family existing sales actually decreased 0.2% from January to a seasonally adjusted 4.36 million sales, but was up 8.7% from the same month a year ago. Seasonally adjusted condominium and co-op sales soared 8.8% from January to a seasonally adjusted 620,000 units, and were up 21.6% from the same period a year ago.

The total housing inventory at the end of February increased 9.6% from the previous month to 1.94 million existing homes for sale. Part of this rise was seasonal, but rising prices are also inducing more homeowners to place their homes on the market.

At the current sales rate, the February 2013 inventory represents a 4.7-month supply compared to a 4.3-month supply in January, and a 6.4-month supply of homes a year ago. The February inventory of condominiums/co-ops increased 22.5% from January to 4.9 months.

Some 25% of sales in February 2013 were distressed, defined as foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts. This level was up from 23% in January and 34% during the same month a year ago.

The median sales price for existing homes of all types in February 2013 was $173,600, up from $170,600 in January, and up 11.6% from the same period a year ago. NAR reported that February represented the twelfth consecutive monthly year-over-year price increase. The median condominium/co-op price increased from a revised $167,000 in January to $172,500 in February, and was up 13.9% from a year ago.

In February 2013, all cash sales were 32% of transactions compared to 28% in January, and 33% in February 2012. Investors accounted for 22% of February 2013 home sales, compared to 19% in January and 23% a year ago. First-time buyers accounted for 30% of February 2013 sales, the same as the previous two months although down from 32% during the same period a year ago.

As existing home prices increase, more households that had planned to sell their homes, but were holding back because of low prices, will put their homes on the market. This increase in inventory will put pressure on new home prices as the recovery enters the spring buying season.
Existing Home Sales February 2013

The sharp 4.5% increase in the January 2013 PHSI was reflected in the strong existing home sales level for February.

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