Total existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – increased 1.0 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate* of 6.89 million from an upwardly revised pace of 6.82 million in February. March sales were the third highest level on record, and were 4.9 percent above the 6.57 million-unit pace in March 2004. The record was a sales rate of 7.02 million in June 2004, followed by 6.98 million in November 2004.
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David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said economic improvements have been supporting the housing sector. “With mortgage interest rates remaining historically low, gains in the labor market and economic growth appear to have lifted the confidence of home buyers,” he said. “There’s no question there is a strong demand for housing from a growing population.”
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $195,000 in March, up 11.4 percent from March 2004 when the median price was $175,000. The median is a typical market price where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.
NAR President Al Mansell said this is the third consecutive month in which home prices have experienced double-digit annual gains. “Although there are solid fundamentals underlying the strength of the housing market, we’d really like to see a bigger supply of homes so people don’t feel pressured when making purchase decisions or contract offers,” he said. “Since housing is a long-term investment, it’s important for buyers to work with a professional who can guide them through the transaction process with a full understanding of all of the alternatives.”
Total housing inventory levels fell 0.2 percent at the end of March to 2.33 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.0-month supply at the current sales pace.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 5.93 percent in March, up from 5.63 percent in February; the rate was 5.45 percent in March 2004.
Existing condominium and cooperative housing sales slipped 0.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 845,000 units in March from a level of 846,000 units in February. Last month’s sales activity was 7.0 percent above the 790,000-unit pace in March 2004. The median condo price was $206,800, up 15.9 percent from the same month a year ago. Condo sales last month accounted for 12.3 percent of market activity.
Single-family home sales rose 1.2 percent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.04 million from a level of 5.97 million in February. Last month’s sales activity was 4.5 percent above the 5.78 million-unit pace in March 2004. The median single-family home price was $193,600 in March, up 11.3 percent from a year earlier.
...Existing-home sales in the Northeast held even at an annual pace of 1.14 million units in March, and were 5.6 percent above the level of a year ago. The median existing-home price in the Northeast was $242,000, up 14.7 percent from March 2004.
The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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* The 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.
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 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger sample – nearly 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions that are fairly common in the new-home sales series.Existing-home sales for April will be released May 24. The next Pending Home Sales Index will be on May 2 and the forecast will be revised May 9.
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