Sales of existing U.S. home fell in March, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), although sales and prices are up compared with the previous year.
March sales decreased 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 4.48 million homes, down from February’s upwardly revised 4.60 million. Yet the new sales rate is up 5.2 percent from the 4.26 million pace from March 2011.
The NAR was very optimistic about the yearly growth.
“The recovery is happening though not at a breakout pace, but we have seen nine consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist in a press release. “Existing-home sales are moving up and down in a fairly narrow range that is well above the level of activity during the first half of last year. With job growth, low interest rates, bargain home prices and an improving economy, the pent-up demand is coming to market and we expect housing to be notably better this year.”
The national median home price actually rose on a monthly and yearly basis, growing to $163,800 in March, up from $155,600 in February and up 2.5 percent from the previous year.
At the same time inventory of existing homes on the market shrank by 1.3 percent to 2.37 million units. That represents a 6.3-month supply at the current sales pace. Compared with March 2011, inventory is down 21.8 percent.
Distressed properties continue to make up a large share of the market. In March foreclosures and short sales made up 29 percent of all sales. That is down, however, from 34 percent in February.
Meanwhile, mortgage interest rates have remained near historic lows during the month, with mortgage finance company Freddie Mac report that the national average rate on a 30-year fixed rate loan in March was 3.95 percent.