NAR: March Existing-Home Sales Rise 3.7%

Sales of existing-home sales rose in March, continuing an uneven recovery that began after sales bottomed last July, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 3.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.10 million in March from an upwardly revised 4.92 million in February, but are 6.3 percent below the 5.44 million pace in March 2010. Sales were at elevated levels from March through June of 2010 in response to the home buyer tax credit.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, expects the improving sales pattern to continue. “Existing-home sales have risen in six of the past eight months, so we’re clearly on a recovery path,” he said. “With rising jobs and excellent affordability conditions, we project moderate improvements into 2012, but not every month will show a gain – primarily because some buyers are finding it too difficult to obtain a mortgage. For those fortunate enough to qualify for financing, monthly mortgage payments as a percent of income have been at record lows.”

NAR’s housing affordability index shows the typical monthly mortgage principal and interest payment for the purchase of a median-priced existing home is only 13 percent of gross household income, the lowest since records began in 1970.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.84 percent in March, down from 4.95 percent in February; the rate was 4.97 percent in March 2010.

Data from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae show requirements to obtain conventional mortgages have been tightened, with the average credit score rising to about 760 in the current market from nearly 720 in 2007; for FHA loans the average credit score is around 700, up from just over 630 in 2007.
“Although home sales are coming back without a federal stimulus, sales would be notably stronger if mortgage lending would return to the normal, safe standards that were in place a decade ago – before the loose lending practices that created the unprecedented boom and bust cycle,” Yun explained.

“Given that FHA and VA government-backed loan programs turned a modest profit over to the U.S. Treasury last year, and have never required a taxpayer bailout, we believe low-downpayment loans should continue to be available for those consumers who have demonstrated financial responsibility and are willing to stay well within their budget. Raising the downpayment requirement would unnecessarily deny credit to many worthy middle-class families and veterans,” Yun said.

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 33 percent of homes in March, compared with 34 percent of homes in February; they were 44 percent in March 2010.

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December Existing-Home Sales Jump

Existing-home sales rose sharply in December, when sales increased for the fifth time in the past six months, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 12.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million in December from an upwardly revised 4.70 million in November, but remain 2.9 percent below the 5.44 million pace in December 2009.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said sales are on an uptrend. “December was a good finish to 2010, when sales fluctuate more than normal. The pattern over the past six months is clearly showing a recovery,” he said. “The December pace is near the volume we’re expecting for 2011, so the market is getting much closer to an adequate, sustainable level. The recovery will likely continue as job growth gains momentum and rising rents encourage more renters into ownership while exceptional affordability conditions remain.”

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $168,800 in December, which is 1.0 percent below December 2009. Distressed homes rose to a 36 percent market share in December from 33 percent in November, and 32 percent in December 2009.

“The modest rise in distressed sales, which typically are discounted 10 to 15 percent relative to traditional homes, dampened the median price in December, but the flat price trend continues,” Yun explained.

Inventory Levels
Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 4.2 percent to 3.56 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 9.5-month supply in November.

NAR President Ron Phipps said buyers are responding to very good affordability conditions despite tight mortgage credit. “Historically low mortgage interest rates, stable home prices, and pent-up demand are drawing home buyers into the market,” Phipps said. “Recent home buyers have been successful with very low default rates, given the outstanding performance for loans originated in 2009 and 2010.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.71 percent in December from 4.30 percent in November; the rate was 4.93 percent in December 2009.

Transaction Types
A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 33 percent of homes in December, up from 32 percent in November, but are below a 43 percent share in December 2009.

Investors accounted for 20 percent of transactions in December, up from 19 percent in November and 15 percent in December 2009; the balance of sales were to repeat buyers. All-cash sales were at 29 percent in December, compared with 31 percent in November, but up from 22 percent a year ago. “All-cash sales have been consistently high at about 30 percent of the market over the past six months,” Yun said.

Single-family home sales jumped 11.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.64 million in December from 4.15 million in November, but are 2.5 percent below the 4.76 million level in December 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $169,300 in December, down 0.2 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales surged 16.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 640,000 in December from 550,000 in November, but remain 5.2 percent below the 675,000-unit pace one year ago. The median existing condo price was $165,000 in December, which is 7.4 percent below December 2009.

Performance by Region
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 13.0 percent to an annual pace of 870,000 in December but are 5.4 percent below December 2009. The median price in the Northeast was $237,300, which is 1.4 percent below a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 11.0 percent in December to a level of 1.11 million but are 4.3 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $139,700, up 3.3 percent from December 2009.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 10.1 percent to an annual pace of 1.97 million in December but are 2.5 percent below December 2009. The median price in the South was $148,400, unchanged from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West surged 16.7 percent to an annual level of 1.33 million in December but remain 1.5 percent below December 2009. The median price in the West was $204,000, down 5.6 percent from a year ago.

— NAR

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Existing-Home Sales Decline in October

Existing-home sales retreated in October on the heels of two strong monthly gains, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, declined 2.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million in October from 4.53 million in September, and are 25.9 percent below the 5.98-million-unit level in October 2009 when sales were surging prior to the initial deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit. Year-to-date there were 4.149 million existing-home sales, down 2.9 percent from 4.272 million at this time in 2009.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the recent sales pattern can be expected to continue. “The housing market is experiencing an uneven recovery, and a temporary foreclosure stoppage in some states is likely to have held back a number of completed sales. Still, sales activity is clearly off the bottom and is attempting to settle into normal, sustainable levels,” he said. “Based on current and improving job market conditions, and from attractive affordability conditions, sales should steadily improve to healthier levels of above 5 million by spring of next year.

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10% Jump in September Existing-Home Sales

Existing-home sales rose again in September, affirming that a sales recovery has begun, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, rose 10 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.53 million in September from a downwardly revised 4.12 million in August, but remain 19.1 percent below the 5.60 million-unit pace in September 2009 when first-time buyers were ramping up in advance of the initial deadline for the tax credit last November.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the housing market is in the early stages of recovery. “A housing recovery is taking place but will be choppy at times depending on the duration and impact of a foreclosure moratorium. But the overall direction should be a gradual rising trend in home sales with buyers responding to historically low mortgage interest rates and very favorable affordability conditions,” he said.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.35 percent in September from 4.43 percent in August; the rate was 5.06 percent in September 2009.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $171,700 in September, which is 2.4 percent below a year ago. Distressed homes accounted for 35 percent of sales in September compared with 34 percent in August; they were 29 percent in September 2009.

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder said opportunities abound in the current market. “A decade ago, mortgage rates were almost double what they are today, and they’re about one-and-a-half percentage points lower than the peak of the housing boom in 2005,” she said. “In addition, home prices are running about 22 percent less than five years ago when they were bid up by the biggest housing rush on record.”

To illustrate the jump in housing affordability, the median monthly mortgage payment for a recently purchased home is several hundred dollars less than it was five years ago. “In fact, the median monthly mortgage payment in many areas is less than people are paying for rent,” Golder said.

Housing affordability conditions today are 60 percentage points higher than during the housing boom, so it has become a very strong buyers’ market, especially for families with long-term plans. “The savings today’s buyers are receiving are not a one-time benefit. Buyers with fixed-rate mortgages will save money every year they are living in their home – this is truly an example of how home ownership builds wealth over the long term,” Golder added.

Total housing inventory at the end of September fell 1.9 percent to 4.04 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.7-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 12-month supply in August. Raw unsold inventory is 11.7 percent below the record of 4.58 million in July 2008.

“Vacant homes and homes where mortgages have not been paid for an extended number of months need to be cleared from the market as quickly as possible, with a new set of buyers helping the recovery along a healthy path,” Yun said. “Inventory remains elevated and continues to favor buyers over sellers. A normal seasonal decline in inventory is expected through the upcoming months.”

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 32 percent of homes in September, almost unchanged from 31 percent in August. Investors were at an 18 percent market share in September, down from 21 percent in August; the balance of purchases were by repeat buyers. All-cash sales were at 29 percent in September compared with 28 percent in August.

Single-family home sales increased 10 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.97 million in September from a pace of 3.61 million in August, but are 19.5 percent below the 4.93 million level in September 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $172,600 in September, down 1.9 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 9.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 560,000 in September from 510,000 in August, but are 16.2 percent lower than the 668,000-unit level one year ago. The median existing condo price was $165,400 in September, down 6.2 percent from September 2009.

Existing-home sales by region:

Northeast – increased 10.1 percent to an annual pace of 760,000 in September but are 20.8 percent below September 2009. The median price in the Northeast was $239,200, which is 1.4 percent below a year ago.

Midwest – jumped 14.5 percent in September to a level of 950,000 but are 26.4 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $139,700, down 5.2 percent from September 2009.

South – sales rose 10.6 percent to an annual pace of 1.77 million in September but are 14.9 percent lower than September 2009. The median price in the South was $149,500, down 2.6 percent from a year ago.

West – increased 5.0 percent to an annual level of 1.05 million in September but are 16.7 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $213,600, which is 4.9 percent lower than September 2009.

Source: NAR

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Sales Slow but Remain Above Last Year

With the scheduled closing deadline for the home buyer tax credits, existing-home sales slowed in June but remained at relatively elevated levels, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 5.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million units in June from 5.66 million in May, but are 9.8 percent higher than the 4.89 million-unit pace in June 2009.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the market shows uncharacteristic yet understandable swings as buyers responded to the tax credits. “June home sales still reflect a tax credit impact with some sales not closed due to delays, which will show up in the next two months,” he said. “Broadly speaking, sales closed after the home buyer tax credit will be significantly lower compared to the credit-induced spring surge. Only when jobs are created at a sufficient pace will home sales return to sustainable healthy levels.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.74 percent in June from 4.89 percent in May; the rate was 5.42 percent in June 2009.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $183,700 in June, which is 1.0 percent higher than a year ago. Distressed homes were at 32 percent of sales last month, compared with 31 percent in May; it was also 31 percent in June 2009.
Source: NAR

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Continued Strong Pace for Existing-Home Sales

Existing-home sales remained at elevated levels in May on buyer response to the tax credit, characterized by stabilizing home prices and historically low mortgage interest rates, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Gains in the West and South were offset by a decline in the Northeast; the Midwest was steady.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.66 million units in May, down 2.2 percent from an upwardly revised surge of 5.79 million units in April. May closings are 19.2 percent above the 4.75 million-unit level in May 2009; April sales were revised to show an 8.0 percent monthly gain.

NAR

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Sales Pace Up from Year-Ago

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 percent from a surge of 5.97 million in the fourth quarter, which was driven by the initial tax credit.

However, when compared with the first quarter of 2009, sales were up 11.4 percent from 4.61 million. “Year-ago comparisons are more meaningful in this report due to sales swings from the tax credit,” Yun says.

Sales volume increased from a year ago in 44 states and the District of Columbia; 31 states and D.C. saw double-digit gains while two were unchanged and four were down.

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder says there’s been a change in market psychology. “Buyer confidence is back, and home buyers have long-term views. The typical buyer plans to stay in their home for 10 years, so we’ve put the flipping mentality behind us and most people see housing for what it is—shelter that provides social benefits and is also a good long-term investment.”

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Existing-Home Sales Down, but Prices Rise

Existing-home sales fell as expected in December after first-time buyers rushed to complete deals during the months leading up to the original November deadline for the tax credit. However, prices rose from December 2008 and annual sales improved in 2009, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales—including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops—fell 16.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.45 million units in December from 6.54 million in November, but remain 15 percent above the 4.74 million-unit level in December 2008.

There were approximately 5,156,000 existing-home sales in 2009, which was 4.9 percent higher than the 4,913,000 transactions recorded in 2008. It was the first annual sales gain since 2005.

Tax Credit Creates Swing in Market

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says there were no surprises in the data.     Full Details…..

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Existing-Home Sales Down, but Prices Rise

Existing-home sales fell as expected in December after first-time buyers rushed to complete deals during the months leading up to the original November deadline for the tax credit. However, prices rose from December 2008 and annual sales improved in 2009, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales—including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops—fell 16.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.45 million units in December from 6.54 million in November, but remain 15 percent above the 4.74 million-unit level in December 2008.

There were approximately 5,156,000 existing-home sales in 2009, which was 4.9 percent higher than the 4,913,000 transactions recorded in 2008. It was the first annual sales gain since 2005.

Tax Credit Creates Swing in Market

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says there were no surprises in the data.

“It’s significant that home sales remain above year-ago levels, but the market is going through a period of swings driven by the tax credit,” he said. “We’ll likely have another surge in the spring as home buyers take advantage of the extended and expanded tax credit. By early summer the overall market should benefit from more balanced inventory, and sales are on track to rise again in 2010.”

However, Yun says, the job market remains a concern and could dampen the housing recovery. “Job creation is key to a continued recovery in the second half of the year,” he says.

An NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 43 percent of homes in December, down from 51 percent in November. Repeat buyers rose to 42 percent of transactions in December from 37 percent in November; the remaining sales were to investors.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $178,300 in December, which is 1.5 percent higher than December 2008.

“The median price rose because of an increased number of mid- to upper-priced homes in the sales mix,” Yun says. It was the first year-over-year gain in median price since August 2007.

Falling Inventories

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder said market conditions are challenging in some areas.

“There’s a shortage of lower-priced homes for sale in much of the country, resulting in multiple bids in some areas,” she says. “Raw unsold inventory has been trending down. As the market heats up again this spring, buyers may need to be prepared to move quickly on a particular home.”

Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 6.6 percent to 3.29 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.2-month supply at the current sales pace. That is an increase from a 6.5-month supply in November.

Raw unsold inventory is 11.1 percent below a year ago, is at the lowest level since March 2006, and is 28.2 percent below the record of 4.58 million in July 2008.

Distressed homes, which accounted for 32 percent of sales last month, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes in the same area.

For all of 2009, the median price was $173,500, down 12.4 percent from $198,100 in 2008. Distressed homes accounted for 36 percent of total sales last year.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.93 percent in December from 4.88 percent in November; the rate was 5.29 percent in December 2008.

Single-Family Home, Condo Sales Dip

Single-family home sales fell 16.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.79 million in December from a pace of 5.76 million in November. Sales are 12.7 percent above the 4.25 million level in December 2008. For all of 2009, single-family sales rose 5 percent to 4,566,000.

The median existing single-family home price was $177,500 in December, which is 1.4 percent above a year ago. For all last year, the median price for a single-family home was $173,200, down 11.9 percent from 2008.

Meanwhile, existing condominium and co-op sales fell 15.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 660,000 in December from 780,000 in November. Sales are 34.7 percent higher than the 490,000-unit pace a year ago. For all of 2009, condo sales rose 4.8 percent to 590,000 units.

The median existing condo price was $183,700 in December, up 1 percent from December 2008. For all of last year, the median condo price was $176,100, which is 16.1 percent below 2008.

Regional Breakdown

Here are existing-home sales figures by region:

* Northeast: sales dropped 19.5 percent to an annual level of 910,000 in December but are 21.3 percent above a year ago. Median price: $241,700, up 3.2 percent from December 2008.
* Midwest: sales fell 25.8 percent in December to a level of 1.15 million but are 8.5 percent higher than December 2008. Median price: $143,200, which is 1.8 percent above a year ago.
* South: sales dropped 16.3 percent to an annual pace of 2.01 million in December but are 15.5 percent above December 2008. Median price: $152,000, down 1 percent from a year ago.
* West: sales declined 4.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.38 million in December but are 15 percent higher than a year ago. Median price: $236,000, up 2.7 percent from December 2008.

— NAR

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Existing-Home Sales Record Big Gains

Driven by the home buyer tax credit, existing-home sales showed another big gain in October with a strong uptrend established over the past seven months, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. At the same time, inventories have continued to decline.

Existing-home sales—including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops—surged 10.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.10 million units in October from a downwardly revised pace of 5.54 million in September, and are 23.5 percent above the 4.94 million-unit level in October 2008. Sales activity is at the highest pace since February 2007 when it hit 6.55 million.

Tax Credit Fuels Surge

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, was surprised at the size of the gain. “Many buyers have been rushing to beat the deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit that was scheduled to expire at the end of this month, and similarly robust sales may be occurring in November,” he said. “With such a sale spike, a measurable decline should be anticipated in December and early next year before another surge in spring and early summer.”  Full Details…

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