WASHINGTON, DC -- Existing-home sales rose in April and remain above a year ago, while home prices continued to rise, according to the National Association of Realtors. The improvements in sales and prices were broad based across all regions.
Total existing-home sales(1), which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 3.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million in April from a downwardly revised 4.47 million in March, and are 10.0 percent higher than the 4.20 million-unit level in April 2011.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the housing recovery is underway. "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. "The general downtrend in both listed and shadow inventory has shifted from a buyers' market to one that is much more balanced, but in some areas it has become a seller's market."
Total housing inventory at the end of April rose 9.5 percent to 2.54 million existing homes available for sale, a seasonal increase which represents a 6.6-month supply(2) at the current sales pace, up from a 6.2-month supply in March. Listed inventory is 20.6 percent below a year ago when there was a 9.1-month supply; the record for unsold inventory was 4.04 million in July 2007.
"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. He notes some areas with tight supply include the Washington, D.C., area; Miami; Naples, Fla.; North Dakota; Phoenix; Orange County, Calif.; and Seattle. "We expect stronger price increases in most of these areas."
The national median existing-home price(3) for all housing types jumped 10.1 percent to $177,400 in April from a year ago; the March price showed an upwardly revised 3.1 percent annual improvement. "This is the first time we've had back-to-back price increases from a year earlier since June and July of 2010 when the gains were less than one percent," Yun said. "For the year we're looking for a modest overall price gain of 1.0 to 2.0 percent, with stronger improvement in 2013."
Distressed homes(4) -- foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts -- accounted for 28 percent of April sales (17 percent were foreclosures and 11 percent were short sales), down from 29 percent in March and 37 percent in April 2011. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 21 percent below market value in April, while short sales were discounted 14 percent.
NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami, said home buyers should look into financing in the early stages of their search process. "With the tight lending environment it's a good idea to consult with a Realtor(R) about mortgages and program options in your area, and tips for boosting your credit score well in advance of making an offer on a home," he said. "It helps to go into the process knowing what it takes to succeed."
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage declined to 3.91 percent in April from 3.95 percent in March; the rate was 4.84 percent in April 2011. Last week the 30-year fixed rate dropped to a record weekly low of 3.79 percent; recordkeeping began in 1971.
First-time buyers rose to 35 percent of purchasers in April from 33 percent in March; they were 36 percent in April 2011.
All-cash sales fell to 29 percent of transactions in April from 32 percent in March; they were 31 percent in April 2011. Investors, who account for the bulk of cash sales, purchased 20 percent of homes in April, compared with 21 percent in March and 20 percent in April 2011.
Single-family home sales rose 3.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.09 million in April from 3.97 million in March, and are 9.9 percent higher than the 3.72 million-unit pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $178,000 in April, up 10.4 percent from April 2011.
Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 6.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000 in April from 500,000 in March, and are 10.4 percent above the 480,000-unit level in April 2011. The median existing condo price was $172,900 in April, which is 8.1 percent above a year ago.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 5.1 percent to an annual level of 620,000 in April and are 19.2 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $256,600, up 8.8 percent from April 2011.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 1.0 percent in April to a pace of 1.03 million and are 14.4 percent above April 2011. The median price in the Midwest was $141,400, up 7.4 percent from a year ago.
In the South, existing-home sales rose 3.5 percent to an annual level of 1.79 million in April and are 6.5 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $153,400, up 8.0 percent from April 2011.
Existing-home sales in the West increased 4.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.18 million in April and are 7.3 percent above April 2011. The median price in the West was $221,700, a surge of 15.9 percent from a year ago.
The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
(1) Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from multiple listing services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. A rebenchmarking of home sales is done periodically using other sources to assess the overall home sales trend, including sales not reported by MLSs.
Existing-home sales differ 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 account for more than 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger sample -- about 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month -- and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.
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. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.
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.
(2) Total inventory and month's supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month's supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, condos were measured quarterly while single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions).
(3) The 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.
(4) Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), all-cash transactions, investors and first-time buyers and are from a monthly survey for the Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at www.realtor.org.
Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. News releases are posted in the website's "News and Commentary" tab. Statistical data in this release, as well as other tables and surveys, are posted in the "Research and Statistics" tab of www.realtor.org.