After three consecutive months of decline, existing home sales, released by the National Association of Realtors, rebounded strongly in February. This is the largest monthly gain since December 2015.
Total Existing home sales, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 11.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.51 million in February, the highest level in the past eleven months. On a year-over-year basis, sales were 1.8% lower than a year ago.
Meanwhile, the first-time buyer share increased to 32% in February from 29% last month and a year ago. The February inventory increased to 1.63 million units from 1.59 million units in January, and was up from 1.58 million units compared to a year ago. At the current sales rate, the February unsold inventory represents a 3.5-month supply, down from a 3.9-month supply last month but up from a 3.4-month supply a year ago.
Homes stayed on the market for an average of 44 days in February, down from 49 days in January but up from 37 days a year ago. In February, 41% of homes sold were on the market for less than a month.
The February all-cash sales shared 23% of transactions, the same as January’s share, but slightly lower than the 24% in February 2018.
The February median sales price of $249,500 was up 3.6% from a year ago, representing the 84th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The February median condominium/co-op price of $233,000 was up 3.1% from a year ago.
Regionally, existing home sales surged in three of the four major regions in February, compared to the previous month, and unchanged in the Northeast. Sales in Midwest, South and West grew 9.5%, 14.9% and 16% from last month. On a year-over-year basis, sales declined 0.4% and 7.9% in the South and West, while sales in the Northeast rose 1.5%. Sales in the Midwest were roughly even from a year ago.
The NAR stated that February surge was driven by lower mortgage rate, more inventory, rising income and growing consumer confidence. Though the strong gain in February signaled a rebound in the market, NAR further suggested that significant construction for affordably priced-homes is still needed for sustained growth. Meanwhile, builder confidence held steady at 62 in March, as the market is stabilizing following the slowdown at the end of 2018.