Existing-home sales up in March

NAR reports cash buyers at record high: 35% of sales

After stumbling in February, sales of existing homes rose 3.7 percent in March from the month before, according to a National Association of Realtors report released today.

Completed sales of existing single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops fell 6.3 percent compared to March 2010 — when a federal homebuyer tax credit program elevated sales — to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.1 million units.

"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," said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, in a statement.

He said the generally upward trend in monthly existing-home sales suggests the housing market is "clearly on a recovery path."

The median price for existing homes nationwide fell 5.9 percent year-over-year in March, to $159,600. Distressed properties, typically sold at a discount, made up 40 percent of sales last month, compared with 35 percent in March 2010.