Existing-home sales rose in April with strong buyer activity in lower price ranges, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.
Existing-home sales — including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops — increased 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million units in April from a downwardly revised pace of 4.55 million units in March. Yet, home sales were 3.5 percent below the 4.85 million-unit level in April 2008, according to NAR.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says first-time buyers continue to influence the market but there also is a seasonal rise of repeat buyers.
“Most of the sales are taking place in lower price ranges and activity is beginning to pickup in the midprice ranges, but high-end home sales remain sluggish,” he says. “The Federal Reserve needs to help restore liquidity for the jumbo mortgage market by buying these loans under the TALF program.”
Buyers Once Again Emerge
An NAR practitioner survey in April showed first-time buyers declined to 40 percent of transactions, implying more repeat buyers are entering the traditional spring home-buying season. It also showed the number of buyers looking at homes has increased 14 percentage points from a year ago.
“This is consistent with our forecast for home sales in the latter part of the year to be 10 to 20 percent higher than the second half of 2008,” Yun says.
It’s critical that distressed homes be quickly cleared from the market, Yun says.
“Fortunately, home buyers are being attracted to deeply discounted prices and are bidding up many foreclosed listings, particularly in California, Nevada, and Florida — this will set the stage for healthy market conditions going forward,” Yun says.
NAR President Charles McMillan says conditions are optimal for buyers with good jobs and long-term plans.
“We have record low mortgage interest rates, a wide selection of homes and affordable prices in most areas,” he says. “When you add the $8,000 first-time buyer tax credit, it’s hard to imagine a better time to make an investment in your future through homeownership.”
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.81 percent in April from 5.00 percent in March; the rate was 5.92 percent in April 2008; data collection began in 1971.
A Closer Look at the Numbers
National median existing-home price: for all housing types, was $170,200 in April, which is 15.4 percent below 2008. Distressed properties, which accounted for 45 percent of all sales in April, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes.
Total housing inventory: at the end of April, rose 8.8 percent to 3.97 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.2-month supply at the current sales pace, compared with a 9.6-month supply in March. “The gain in inventory is largely seasonal from sellers entering the spring market," Yun says. "Even with the rise, inventory over the past few months has remained consistently lower in comparison with a year earlier."
Single-family home sales: rose 2.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.18 million in April from a level of 4.08 million in March, but are 2.8 percent below the 4.30 million-unit pace in March 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $169,800 in April, which is 14.9 percent below a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales: increased 6.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 500,000 units in April from 470,000 in March, but are 9.4 percent lower than the 552,000-unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price was $173,900 in April, down 18.5 percent from April 2008.
NAR reported the following with existing-home sales across the country:
- Northeast: jumped 11.6 percent to an annual pace of 770,000 in April, but are 10.5 percent below April 2008. Median price: $237,400, which is 9.6 percent lower than a year ago.
- Midwest: slipped 2 percent in April to a level of 1.00 million and are 9.9 percent lower than a year ago. Median price: $138,800, down 11.7 percent from April 2008.
- South: increased 1.8 percent to an annual pace of 1.74 million in April but are 8.9 percent lower than April 2008. Median price: $148,000, which is 12.8 percent below a year ago.
- West: rose 3.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.17 million in April and are 19.4 percent higher than a year ago. Median price: $222,600, down 21.8 percent from April 2008.