Existing home sales, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), increased 1.7% in April, continuing to build from an early year tumble, and showing improvement among first-time buyers. The April share of first-time buyers reached 32.0% in April, compared to an average of 30% for all of 2015. April existing sales are up 6.0% from the same month a year ago. Total existing home sales in April increased to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.45 million units combined for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, up from an upwardly revised 5.36 million units in March.
April existing sales increased in the Midwest and Northeast by 12.1% and 2.8% respectively, but fell in the West and South by 1.7% and 2.7% respectively. Year-over-year, the Northeast increased 17.5%, the Midwest was up 12.1% and the South increased by 4.3%. Similar to last month, the West decreased 3.4% from the same period a year ago.
Total housing inventory increased 9.2% in April, but remains 3.6% lower than its level a year ago. At the current sales rate, the April unsold inventory represents a 4.7-month supply, up from a 4.4-month supply in March. Some 45% of homes sold in April were on the market for less than a month, the highest since June 2015.
The distressed sales share decreased to 7% in April from 8% in March from 10% a year ago. Distressed sales are defined as foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts. The April all-cash sales share dropped to 24%, the same as a year ago. Individual investors purchased a 13% share in April, down from 14% in March, and continued to follow a four year pattern of increasing at the beginning of the year and declining by spring.
The April median sales price of $232,500 was 6.3% above the same month a year ago, and represents the 50th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The median condominium/co-op price of $223,300 in April was up 6.8% from the same month a year ago.
The Pending Home Sales Index increased 3.5% in February and 1.4% in March, so the continued upward trend in existing sales reported in April was not unexpected. Builder sentiment remains cautiously optimistic, and the tight inventory of existing homes bodes well for new single-family sales in 2016.