Total existing-home sales declined 0.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million in March from a downwardly revised 4.95 million in February, according to new data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). However, the March level is 10.3% higher than the 4.46 million-unit pace in March 2012.
‘Buyer traffic is 25 percent above a year ago, when we were already seeing notable gains in shopping activity,’ says Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. ‘In the same time frame, housing inventories have trended much lower, which is continuing to pressure home prices. The good news is home construction is rising and low mortgage rates are continuing to keep affordability conditions at historically favorable levels. The bad news is that underwriting standards remain excessively tight, while renters are getting squeezed by higher rents.’
Total housing inventory at the end of March increased 1.6% to 1.93 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.7-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.6 months in February. Listed inventory remains 16.8% below a year ago, when there was a 6.2-month supply. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $184,300 in March, which is 11.8% higher than March 2012.
Distressed homes accounted for 21% of March sales, down from 25% in February and 29% in March 2012. Thirteen percent of March sales were foreclosures, and 8% were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 15% below market value in March, while short sales were discounted 13%.