The spring home sale season has finally sprung. Existing-home sales surged to the highest annual rate since September 2013. Also: More homes went up for sale, relieving some inventory constraints, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest report.
The Midwest posted the largest gains in home sales, but all regions saw a rise in March and are above their year-over-year sales pace, NAR reports.
“After a quiet start to the year, sales activity picked up greatly throughout the country in March,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “The combination of low interest rates and the ongoing stability in the job market is improving buyer confidence and finally releasing some of the sizable pent-up demand that accumulated in recent years.”
Existing-home sales—reflecting completed transactions for single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops—rose 6.1 percent in March month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million—the highest annual rate in 18 months. Sales are now 10.4 percent above a year ago.
Home prices also climbed last month, with the median existing-home price for all housing types reaching $212,100 in March—7.8 percent higher than March 2014. That is the largest price increase since February 2014, when prices jumped 8.8 percent year-over-year.
More homes were on the market nationwide in March, with unsold inventories climbing 5.3 percent to 2 million existing homes available for sale, representing a 4.6-month supply. Inventories are now 2 percent above year-ago levels.
“The modest rise in housing supply at the end of the month despite the strong growth in sales is a welcome sign,” Yun says. “For sales to build upon the current pace, home owners will increasingly need to be confident in their ability to sell their home while having enough time and choices to upgrade or downsize. More listings and new-home construction are still needed to tame price growth and provide more opportunity for first-time buyers to enter the market.” The share of first-time buyers in March was 30 percent (historically, they represent a 40 percent share).
Housing Market Snapshot for March
- Days on the market:Properties typically stayed on the market for a shorter time in March – 52 days versus 62 days in February. Short sales in March were on the market the longest, at a median of 165 days in March; foreclosures sold in 56 days; and non-distressed homes averaged 51 days. Forty percent of homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month.
- All-cash sales represented 24 percent of transactions in March, down from 33 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in March, a drop from 17 percent in March 2014.
- Distressed sales accounted for 10 percent of sales in March, down from 14 percent a year ago. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 16 percent below market value in March, while short sales were discounted 16 percent.
Data By Region
- Northeast: Existing-home sales rose 6.9 percent in March to an annual rate of 620,000, and are 1.6 percent above a year ago. Median price: $240,500, 1.6 percent below a year ago
- Midwest: Existing-home sales jumped 10.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.2 million, and are now 12.1 percent above a year ago. Median price: $163,600, up 9.7 percent from a year ago
- South: Existing-home sales climbed 3.8 percent to an annual rate of 2.19 million, and are now 11.7 percent above March 2014. Median price: $187,900, up 9.3 percent from a year ago
- West: Existing-home sales rose 6.3 percent to an annual rate of 1.18 million, and are now 11.3 percent above a year ago. Median price: $305,000, which is 8.3 percent above year-ago levels