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Existing-home sales soar in February

Sales rise roughly 10% or better in three U.S. regions.

BY HBSDealer Staff

Existing-home sales rebounded and surged in February, rising 11.8% from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.51 million, according to the latest report form the National Association of Realtors.

Completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops are down 1.8% from a year ago from a pace of 5.61 million in February 2018, however.

Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the NAR, points to a number of factors for the increase in February sales. “A powerful combination of lower mortgage rates, more inventory, rising income and higher consumer confidence is driving the sales rebound,” he said.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $249,500, up 3.6% percent from February 2018 and the price of $240,800. February’s price increase marks the 84th straight month of year-over-year gains, the NAR said.

Total inventory at the end of February increased to 1.63 million, up from 1.59 million existing homes available for sale in January, a 3.2% increase from 1.58 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 3.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.9 months in January but up from 3.4 months in February 2018.

Properties remained on the market for an average of 44 days in February, down from 49 days in January but up from 37 days a year ago. About 41% percent of homes sold in February were on the market for less than a month.

“It is very welcoming to see more inventory showing up in the market,” says Yun.

Single-family home sales are at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million in February, up from 4.36 million in January and down 1.4% from 5.01 million a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $251,400 in February, up 3.6% from February 2018.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 570,000 units in February, unchanged from last month and down 5% from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $233,300 in February, up 3.1% from a year ago.

On a regional basis, February existing-home sales numbers in the Northeast were identical to last month. The annual rate of 690,000 is 1.5% above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $272,900, which is up 3.8% from February 2018.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales rose 9.5% from last month to an annual rate of 1.27 million, roughly even to February 2018 levels, the NAR said. The median price in the Midwest was $188,800, which is up 5.4% from last year.

Existing-home sales in the South grew 14.9% to an annual rate of 2.39 million in February, down 0.4% from last year, while the median price rose 2.5% to $219,300.

Sales erupted in the West by 16% to an annual rate of 1.16 million in February, 7.9%, as the median price is up 3% to $379,300.

Yun repeatedly called for more housing inventory in 2018 and says the market would benefit in 2019 with an influx of more homes.

“For sustained growth, significant construction of moderately priced-homes is still needed,” Yun explained. “More construction will help boost local economies and more home sales will help lessen wealth inequality as more households can enjoy in housing wealth gains.”

The NAR said the hottest metro areas in January were Midland, Texas; Chico, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Col.; Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash.; and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.

First-time buyers were responsible for 32% of sales in February, up from a mark of 29% last month and a year ago.

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