After reaching 13-year high last month, existing home sales, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), plummeted in March as expected due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Total existing home sales, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, dropped 8.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.27 million in March, largest monthly decline since November 2015. On a year-over-year basis, however, sales were still 0.8% higher than a year ago.
The first-time buyer share rose to 34% in March from 32% last month and 33% a year ago. The March inventory level rose to 1.50 million units from 1.46 million units in February but decreased from 1.67 million units a year ago.
At the current sales rate, the March unsold inventory represents a 3.4-month supply, up from 3.0-month in February but down from a 3.8-month a year ago.
Homes stayed on the market for an average of 29 days in March, down from 36 days both last month and a year ago. In March, 52% of homes sold were on the market for less than a month.
The March all-cash sales shared 19% of transactions, down from 20% last month and 21% a year ago.
Despite the steep monthly decline in sales, home prices remained solidly strong. The March median sales price of all existing homes was $280,600, up 8.0% from a year ago, representing the 97th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The median existing condominium/co-op price of $263,400 in March was up 7.9% from a year ago.
Regionally, all regions saw a decline in existing home sales in March compared to previous month, ranging from 3.1% in the Midwest to 13.6% in the West. On a year-over-year basis, sales grew 4.2% and 0.9% in the Midwest and the South, while sales fell 3.0% and 0.9% in the Northeast and the West.
As March sales reflect contracts signed in January and February, before the virus paralyzed the economy, we might see a deeper decline in sales in the coming months. Meanwhile, reflecting the growing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, builder confidence plunged 42 points to 30 in April, the largest monthly drop in the 35-year history of the index.