Existing single-family home sales in March were up about 12.7 percent above March 2003 numbers, reaching the second-highest level on record, the National Association of Realtors reported today. Existing-home sales hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.48 million units in March, compared with the record of 6.68 million in September 2003. In February, NAR recorded 6.13 million units.


David Lereah, NAR‘s chief economist, said, “Although interest rates are rising modestly, an improving job market is creating a favorable backdrop for home sales, but at a somewhat slower pace in the months ahead.”


According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 5.45 percent in March, the second lowest on record, down from 5.64 percent in February. It was 5.75 percent in March 2003; the record low is 5.23 percent set in June 2003. Freddie Mac started tracking interest rates in 1971.


NAR President Walt McDonald said interest rates should trend steadily upward, reaching 6.4 in the fourth quarter. “However, since mortgage interest rates are still low in historic terms, the strength of the labor market has become an important factor in the health of housing and overall home sales this year should be close to a record.”


The national median existing-home price was $174,100 in March, up 7.4 percent from March 2003 when the median price was $162,100. Housing inventory levels at the end of March rose 4.8 percent from February to a total of 2.39 million existing-homes available for sale, which represents a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace. This supply is down about 6.4 percent since March 2003, and down about 2.2 percent from February 2004.


Existing-home sales in the Northeast were at an annual pace of 720,000 units in March, unchanged from February but 10.8 percent higher than in March 2003. The median existing-home price in the Northeast was $213,000, up 20.3 percent from the same month a year earlier.


Home resales in the West, meanwhile, jumped 10.2 percent in March to an annual rate of 1.83 million units, 18.1 percent above March 2003 levels. The median existing-home price in the West was $244,500, up 11.2 percent from March 2003.


Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 6.3 percent in March to an annual rate of 1.35 million units, and were 7.1 percent above March 2003. The median price in the Midwest was $140,200, up 2 percent from the same month a year earlier.


The existing-home sales pace in the South increased 3.6 percent in March to an annual rate of 2.58 million units, and was 12.2 percent above a year ago. The median price of an existing-home in the South was $158,700, which was 5.1 percent higher than March 2003, NAR also reported.


Send tips, feedback or a letter to the editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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