The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Monday morning that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of existing home sales in March increased by 1.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.6 million from a rate of 5.54 million in February.
The March increase followed a 3% boost in February sales but still leaves existing home sales down 1.2% year to date compared with 2017. The consensus estimate called for sales to reach 5.528 million, according to a survey of economists polled by Bloomberg.
In 2017 existing home sales rose 1.1% year over year, the best level in 11 years. The seasonally adjusted annual rate came in at 5.51 million, the highest since posting 6.48 million in 2006.
The NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said:
Robust gains last month in the Northeast and Midwest – a reversal from the weather-impacted declines seen in February – helped overall sales activity rise to its strongest pace since last November at 5.72 million. The unwelcoming news is that while the healthy economy is generating sustained interest in buying a home this spring, sales are lagging year ago levels because supply is woefully low and home prices keep climbing above what some would-be buyers can afford
Housing inventory increased by 5.7% in March to 1.67 million homes, equal to a supply of 3.6 months, down from 3.8 months in March 2017, and has fallen year over year for 34 consecutive months. Inventory is down 7.2% year over year from 1.8 million in March 2017.
According to the NAR, the national median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $250,400, up 5.8% compared with March 2017, the 73rd consecutive month of rising home prices. In February the national median price was $241,700.
The percentage of first-time buyers rose by one percentage point month over month to 30%. For all of 2017, first-time buyers accounted for 34% of sales, down one percentage point compared with 2016.
Sales of single-family homes rose 0.6% from the February total of 4.96 million to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.99 million, but that was down 1% compared with March 2017. Sales of multifamily homes increased by 5.2% in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000 units.
All homes were on the market for an average of 30 days in March, down by seven days month over month and down from 34 days in March 2017. Foreclosure (3%) and short (1%) sales accounted for 4% of all March sales, unchanged compared with the prior month and down from 18% in March 2017.
The NAR also reported the following regional data.
March existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 6.3% to an annual rate of 680,000 but remain down 9.3% compared with March 2017 sales. The median price in the Northeast was $270,600, up 3.3% compared with March of last year.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales increased by 5.7% to an annual rate of 1.29 million in March, down 1.5% compared with the March 2017 rate. The median price in the Midwest was $192,200, up 5.1% from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the South dipped 0.4% in March to an annual rate of 2.4 million, but remain.0.4% above March 2017 sales. The median price in the South was $222,400, up 5.7% from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West dropped 3.1% to an annual rate of 1.23 million in March, but remain up 0.8% compared with March 2017 totals. The median price in the West was $377,100, up 7.9% compared with the March 2017 median.