Total existing-home sales declined 2.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.48 million in March from an upwardly revised 4.60 million in February, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). However, these sales are 5.2% above the 4.26 million-unit pace in March 2011.
The total housing inventory at the end of March declined 1.3% to 2.37 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.3-month supply at the current sales pace, the same as in February. Listed inventory is 21.8% below a year ago and well below the record of 4.04 million in July 2007.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $163,800 in March, up 2.5% from March 2011. Distressed homes accounted for 29% of March sales (18% were foreclosures, and 11% were short sales), compared with 34% in February and 40% in March 2011. Foreclosures typically sold for an average 19% below market price in March, while short sales were discounted 16%.
All-cash sales slipped to 32% of transactions in March from 33% in February; they were 35% in March 2011. Investors, who dominated the all-cash sales volume, purchased 21% of homes in March, down from 23% in February and 22% in March 2011. First-time buyers accounted for 33% of transactions in March; they were 32% in February and 33% in March 2011.
Single-family home sales declined 2.5% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.97 million in March from 4.07 million in February, but are 5.9% above the 3.75 million-unit pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $163,600 in March, up 1.9% from March 2011. Existing condominium and co-op sales fell 3.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 510,000 in March from 530,000 in February, and are unchanged from March 2011. The median existing condo price was $165,200 in March, which is 7.1% above a year ago.
‘The recovery is happening, though not at a breakout pace, but we have seen nine consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases,’ says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. ‘Existing-home sales are moving up and down in a fairly narrow range that is well above the level of activity during the first half of last year. With job growth, low interest rates, bargain home prices and an improving economy, the pent-up demand is coming to market, and we expect housing to be notably better this year.’