Existing-home sales and prices rise, point toward recovery: NAR

By Jessica Huseman

May 22, 2012 • http://www.housingwire.com

Existing-home sales rose in April, and home prices continued to rise, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Total existing-home sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 3.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million in April from a downwardly revised 4.47 million in March. This is 10% higher than the 4.2 million-unit level from April of last year.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said the numbers point to a housing recovery under way.

“It is no longer just the investors who are taking advantage of high affordability conditions. A return of normal home buying for occupancy is helping home sales across all price points, and now the recovery appears to be extending to home prices,” he said.

Total housing inventory at the end of April rose 9.5% to 2.54 million existing homes, a seasonal increase that represents a 6.6-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 6.2-month supply in March. Listed inventory is 20.6% below a year ago when there was a 9.1-month supply.

“A diminishing share of foreclosed property sales is helping home values. Moreover, an acute shortage of inventory in certain markets is leading to multiple biddings and escalating price conditions,” Yun said.

Yun said those areas include the Washington, D.C.; Miami; Naples, Fla.; North Dakota; Phoenix; Orange County, Calif.; and Seattle, in the majority of which he says “stronger price increases” can be expected.

He said the general downtrend in listed and shadow inventory has caused a shift from the buyers’ market to one that is more balanced, and in some areas is even pushing into a seller’s market.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types jumped 10.1% to $177,400 in April from April of last year, and the March price showed an upwardly revised 3.1% annual improvement.

Yun said this is the first time there has been back-to-back, year-over-year increases since June and July of 2010, and even then gains were less than 1%. For this year, he said the country can can expect a “modest overall price gain of 1 to 2%, with stronger improvement in 2013.”

Distressed homes accounted for 28% of April sales. Of those, 17% were foreclosures and 11% were short sales. This is down slightly from 29% in March and down 9% from April of last year’s 37%. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 21% below market value in April and short sales were discounted at an average of 14%.

Just last week, the 30-year fixed rate dropped to a record weekly lowof 3.91% since records began in 1971, according to Freddie Mac. It was the third week in a row where the record was broken.

First-time buyers rose to 35% of purchasers in April, up 2% from March’s numbers and 1% year-over-year.

All-cash sales dropped to 29% of transactions in April, down from March’s 32% and year-over-year from April 2011’s 31%. Investors account for the majority of cash sales, and their buying slowed in April to 20% of homes down 1% from March and unchanged from April 2011’s 21%.

Single-family home sales rose 3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.09 million in April, up from 3.97 million in March. The numbers are 9.9% higher than the 3.72 million-unit rate one year ago.

Existing condo and co-op sales were up 6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000 in April — beating March’s numbers by 30,000 sales. April’s numbers are 10.4% above April of last year’s numbers.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast gained 5.1% to an annual level of 620,000 in April and are 19.2% higher than a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $256,600, up 8.8% from April 2011.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales increased 1% in April to 1.03 million. That is 14.4% higher than April 2011. The median price in the Midwest was $141,400, up 7.4% from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South rose 3.5% to an annual level of 1.79 million in April and are 6.5% higher year-over-year. The median price in the South was $153,400, up 8% from last year.

Existing-home sales in the West increased 4.4% to an annual pace of 1.18 million in April and are 7.3% above April 2011. The median price in the West was $221,700, an impressive increase of 15.9 percent from a year ago.

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