Existing-home sales reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million in March – an increase of 6.1% compared to an annual rate of 4.89 million in February, the highest annual rate since September 2013 and the largest monthly increase since December 2010, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports.
What's more, existing-home sales were up 10.4% compared to March 2014, NAR says.
All major regions experienced strong sales gains. Sales in the Midwest jumped 10.1% to an annual rate of 1.20 million while sales in the Northeast increased 6.9% to reach an annual rate of 620,000. Sales in the West rose 6.3% to reach an annual rate of 1.18 million while sales in the South climbed 3.8% to reach an annual rate of 2.19 million.
‘After a quiet start to the year, sales activity picked up greatly throughout the country in March,’ says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, in a release. ‘The combination of low interest rates and the ongoing stability in the job market is improving buyer confidence and finally releasing some of the sizable pent-up demand that accumulated in recent years.’
Total housing inventory at the end of March climbed 5.3% month over month to reach 2.00 million existing homes available for sale – a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace – down from 4.7 months in February. That's 2.0% above a year ago when inventory stood at around 1.96 million homes for sale.
The median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $212,100, an increase of 7.8% compared to March 2014.
‘The modest rise in housing supply at the end of the month despite the strong growth in sales is a welcoming sign,’ adds Yun. ‘For sales to build upon their current pace, homeowners will increasingly need to be confident in their ability to sell their home while having enough time and choices to upgrade or downsize. More listings and new home construction are still needed to tame price growth and provide more opportunity for first-time buyers to enter the market.’
About 30% of existing-home sales in March were to first-time home buyers, up from 29% in February.
About 24% of transactions were all-cash, down from 26% in February.
Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – were 10% of sales in March, down from 11% in February and down from 14% in March 2014.