NAR: Existing-Home Sales Sprung Up In March

Existing-home sales in March reached an annual pace of 5.71 million, up 4.4% from a downwardly revised 5.47 million in February and up 5.9% compared with March 2016, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

It was the strongest pace for existing-home sales in 11 years.

Only the West saw a decrease in existing-home sales in March. Existing-home sales there were down 1.6%, month over month. The Northeast surged 10.1%, while the Midwest jumped 9.2% and the South increased 3.4%.

The report includes sales of townhouses, condominiums and co-ops.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, says the increase in March means things look more “promising” for the spring home buying season.

“A rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month,” Yun says in a statement. “Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain. Sales will go up as long as inventory does.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $236,400, up 6.8% from $221,400 in March 2016.

As of the end of March, there were about 1.83 million existing homes available for sale, which is up 5.8% compared with February but down 6.6% compared with March 2016.

That’s about a 3.8-month supply at the current sales pace.

Properties typically stayed on the market for 34 days in March – down from 45 days in February and 47 days a year ago.

Short sales were on the market the longest, at a median of 90 days in March, while foreclosures sold in 52 days and non-distressed homes took 32 days (which is the shortest since NAR began tracking in May 2011). About 48% of homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month.

The fact that mortgage rates have decreased for the past several weeks certainly helps.

Roughly 32% of existing-home sales in March went to first-time home buyers – unchanged from February and up from 30% compared with a year ago.

About 23% of transactions were all-cash – down from 27% in February and down from 25% a year ago.

Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 15% of homes in March – down from 17% in February but up from 14% a year ago. About 63% of investors paid in cash in March.

Distressed sales, including foreclosures and short sales, represented about 6% of sales in March – down from 7% in February and down from 8% a year earlier.

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