Existing-Home Sales Rise In March

Existing-home sales rose in March,continuing an uneven recovery that began after sales bottomed last July,according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales, including single-family,townhomes,condominiums,and co-ops,increased 3.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.10 million in March from an upwardly revised 4.92 million in February,but are 6.3% below the 5.44 million pace in March 2010. Sales were at elevated levels from March through June of 2010 in response to the home buyer tax credit.

The improving sales pattern is likely to continue,said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Existing-home sales have risen in six of the past eight months,so we’re clearly on a recovery path,” he said. “With rising jobs and excellent affordability conditions,we project moderate improvements into 2012,but not every month will show a gain—primarily because some buyers are finding it too difficult to obtain a mortgage. For those fortunate enough to qualify for financing,monthly mortgage payments as a percentage of income have been at record lows.”

NAR’s housing affordability index shows the typical monthly mortgage principal and interest payment for the purchase of a median-priced existing home is only 13% of gross household income,the lowest since records began in 1970.

Mortgages harder to get

Data from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae show requirements to obtain conventional mortgages have been tightened,with the average credit score rising to about 760 in the current market from nearly 720 in 2007;for FHA loans the average credit score is around 700,up from just over 630 in 2007.

“Although home sales are coming back without a federal stimulus,sales would be notably stronger if mortgage lending would return to the normal,safe standards that were in place a decade ago—before the loose lending practices that created the unprecedented boom-and-bust cycle,” Yun explained.

“Given that FHA and VA government-backed loan programs turned a modest profit over to the U.S. Treasury last year,and have never required a taxpayer bailout,we believe low-downpayment loans should continue to be available for those consumers who have demonstrated financial responsibility and are willing to stay well within their budget. Raising the downpayment requirement would unnecessarily deny credit to many worthy middle-class families and veterans,” Yun said.

Who is buying homes?

A parallel NAR survey shows first-time buyers purchased 33% of homes in March,compared with 34% of homes in February;they were 44% in March 2010.

All-cash sales were at a record market share of 35% in March,up from 33% in February;they were 27% in March 2010. Investors accounted for 22% of sales activity in March,up from 19% in February;they were 19% in March 2010. The balance of sales were to repeat buyers.

Housing inventory up slightly

Total housing inventory at the end of March rose 1.5% to 3.55 million existing homes available for sale,which represents an 8.4-month supply at the current sales pace,compared with a 8.5-month supply in February.

Single-family home sales up

Single-family home sales rose 4.0% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.45 million in March from 4.28 million in February,but are 6.5% below the 4.76 million level in March 2010. The median existing single-family home price was $160,500 in March,down 5.3% from a year ago.

Condo sales rise

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 1.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 650,000 in March from 640,000 in February,but are 4.1% below the 678,000-unit pace one year ago. The median existing condo price was $153,100 in March,which is 10.1% below March 2010.

Regional home sales mixed

Regionally,existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 3.9% to an annual level of 800,000 in March but are 12.1% below March 2010. The median price in the Northeast was $232,900,down 3.0% from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 1.0% in March to a pace of 1.06 million but are 13.1% lower than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $126,100,which is 7.1% below March 2010.

In the South,existing-home sales rose 8.2% to an annual level of 1.99 million in March but are 1.0% below March 2010. The median price in the South was $138,200,down 6.6% from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West slipped 0.8% to an annual pace of 1.25 million in March and are 3.1% below a year ago. The median price in the West was $192,100,which is 11.2% lower than March 2010.

Source:NAR

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/news/articles/existing-home-sales-rise-march/#ixzz1KZzH1z8R

 

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