A growing number of metropolitan areas are experiencing price gains from a year ago, while most states have seen healthy gains in home sales from the first quarter of 2009, according to the latest survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
In the first quarter, 91 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas showed higher median existing single-family home prices in comparison with the first quarter of 2009, including 29 with double-digit increases; three were unchanged; and 58 metros had price declines. In the fourth quarter of 2009, 67 areas reported gains, and 123 were down, while only 30 metros in third quarter showed annual price increases.
The national median existing single-family price was fairly flat at $166,100 – down 0.7% from the first-quarter 2009 price of $167,300. Distressed homes, which typically are discounted by 15% relative to traditional homes, accounted for 36% of first-quarter sales.
Â "This flattening in home prices is something we've been seeing in all of the home-price measures lately, and quite clearly in this metro-area price report," notes Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "The tax credit has been very effective in drawing down excess inventory, with about 1 million additional sales resulting directly from the stimulus."
Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.14 million in the first quarter – down 14% from a surge of 5.97 million in the fourth quarter, which was driven by the initial tax credit. However, first-quarter sales remain 11.4% above the 4.61 million-unit level in the first quarter of 2009.
"Year-ago comparisons are more meaningful in this report due to sales swings from the tax credit," Yun says.
Sales increased from a year ago in 44 states and the District of Columbia, 31 states and D.C. saw double-digit gains, two were unchanged and four were down.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage was 5% in the first quarter – up slightly from a record low of 4.92% in the fourth quarter; it was 5.06% in the first quarter of 2009.
Even with some recent easing of mortgage credit, separate surveys show the housing market continues to be constrained by mortgage issues, according to NAR President Vicki Cox Golder.
"One-third of NAR members report the most important factor limiting potential clients has been difficulty in obtaining a mortgage," she says. "In addition, 11 percent of Realtors in the first quarter report a contract was canceled because an appraisal came in less than the price negotiated between a buyer and seller, and another 16 percent report a contract had to be renegotiated because of a low appraisal."
SOURCE: National Association of Realtors