Existing-home sales grew for the second consecutive month in March, but lagging inventory levels and affordability constraints kept sales activity below year ago levels, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 1.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.60 million in March from 5.54 million in February. Despite last month's increase, sales are still 1.2 percent below a year ago.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says closings in March eked forward despite challenging market conditions in most of the country. "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," said Yun. "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."
The median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $250,400, up 5.8 percent from March 2017 ($236,600). March's price increase marks the 73rd straight month of year-over-year gains.
Total housing inventory at the end of March climbed 5.7 percent to 1.67 million existing homes available for sale, but is still 7.2 percent lower than a year ago (1.80 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 34 consecutive months. Unsold inventory is at a 3.6-month supply at the current sales pace (3.8 months a year ago).
- In the Midwest, existing-home sales increased 5.7 percent to an annual rate of 1.29 million in March, but are still 1.5 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $192,200, up 5.1 percent from a year ago.
- Existing-home sales in the South decreased 0.4 percent to an annual rate of 2.40 million in March, but are 0.4 percent above a year ago. The median price in the South was $222,400, up 5.7 percent from a year ago.
- Existing-home sales in the West declined 3.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.23 million in March, but are still 0.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $377,100, up 7.9 percent from March 2017.
Prices are rising and so are interest rates and overall debt loads. Housing growth will remain weak with these headwinds.
Mike "Mish" Shedlock