Sales Rising of Homes
WASHINGTON, May 27, 2009
Existing-home sales rose in April with strong buyer activity in lower price ranges, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – increased 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 4.68 million units in April from a downwardly revised pace of 4.55 million units in March, but were 3.5 percent below the 4.85 million-unit level in April 2008.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said first-time buyers continue to influence the market but there also is a seasonal rise of repeat buyers. “Most of the sales are taking place in lower price ranges and activity is beginning to pick up in the mid-price ranges, but high-end home sales remain sluggish,” he said. “The Federal Reserve needs to help restore liquidity for the jumbo mortgage market by buying these loans under the TALF program.”
“Because foreclosed properties will likely be released into the market over the rest of year, it is critical that distressed homes be quickly cleared from the market,” Yun said. “Fortunately, home buyers are being attracted to deeply discounted prices and are bidding up many foreclosed listings, particularly in California, Nevada, and Florida – this will set the stage for healthy market conditions going forward.”
An NAR practitioner survey in April showed first-time buyers declined to 40 percent of transactions, implying more repeat buyers are entering the traditional spring home-buying season. It also showed the number of buyers looking at homes has increased 14 percentage points from a year ago. “This is consistent with our forecast for home sales in the latter part of the year to be 10 to 20 percent higher than the second half of 2008,” Yun said.
The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $170,200 in April, which is 15.4 percent below 2008. Distressed properties, which accounted for 45 percent of all sales in April, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes.
NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth, said conditions are optimal for buyers with good jobs and long-term plans. “We have record low mortgage interest rates, a wide selection of homes and affordable prices in most areas,” he said. “When you add the $8,000 first-time buyer tax credit, it’s hard to imagine a better time to make an investment in your future through home ownership.”
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.81 percent in April from 5.00 percent in March; the rate was 5.92 percent in April 2008; data collection began in 1971.
Total housing inventory at the end of April rose 8.8 percent to 3.97 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.2.-month supply3 at the current sales pace, compared with a 9.6-month supply in March. “The gain in inventory is largely seasonal from sellers entering the spring market. Even with the rise, inventory over the past few months has remained consistently lower in comparison with a year earlier,” Yun noted.
Single-family home sales rose 2.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.18 million in April from a level of 4.08 million in March, but are 2.8 percent below the 4.30 million-unit pace in March 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $169,800 in April, which is 14.9 percent below a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 6.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 500,000 units in April from 470,000 in March, but are 9.4 percent lower than the 552,000-unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price4 was $173,900 in April, down 18.5 percent from April 2008.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 11.6 percent to an annual pace of 770,000 in April, but are 10.5 percent below April 2008. The median price in the Northeast was $237,400, which is 9.6 percent lower than a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest slipped 2.0 percent in April to a level of 1.00 million and are 9.9 percent lower than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $138,800, down 11.7 percent from April 2008.
In the South, existing-home sales increased 1.8 percent to an annual pace of 1.74 million in April but are 8.9 percent lower than April 2008. The median price in the South was $148,000, which is 12.8 percent below a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West rose 3.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.17 million in April and are 19.4 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the West was $222,600, down 21.8 percent from April 2008.
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NOTE: References to performance in states or metro areas are from unpublished raw data used to analyze regional trends; please contact your local association of Realtors® for more information.
1The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.
Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings. This differs from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which generally account for 85 to 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger sample – more than 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.
Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.
²The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to the seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if more data is received than was originally reported.
3Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982.
4Because there is a concentration of condos in high-cost metro areas, the national median condo price generally is higher than the median single-family price. In a given market area, condos typically cost less than single-family homes.
Existing-home sales for May will be released June 23. The next Pending Home Sales Index & Forecast is scheduled for June 2; release times are 10 a.m. EDT.
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