After a monthly rise in March, sales of existing-homes dipped slightly in April compared to the month before, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors released today.

Completed sales of existing single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops slipped

After a monthly rise in March, sales of existing-homes dipped slightly in April compared to the month before, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors released today.

Completed sales of existing single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops slipped 0.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million in April from a downwardly revised 5.09 million in March, the report said. Sales fell 12.9 percent compared to April 2010 when a federal homebuyer tax credit program was in place.

According to the NAR report, the national median price for existing homes fell 5 percent year-over-year last month, to $163,700. Distressed properties, typically sold at a discount, made up 37 percent of sales in April, down from 40 percent in March and up from 33 percent in April 2010.

"Although existing-home sales are expected to trend up unevenly through next year, unnecessarily tight credit is continuing to restrain the market, along with a steady level of low appraisals that result in contract cancellations," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun in a statement.

Total unsold inventory rose 9.9 percent to 3.87 million — a 9.2-month supply at the current sales pace, the report said. That’s up from an 8.3-month supply in March.

According to a separate NAR survey, cash buyers accounted for 31 percent of purchases in April, down from a record 35 percent in March, the report said.

First-time buyers made up 36 percent of sales, up from 33 percent in March, but down from 49 percent in April 2010. Repeat buyers accounted for 44 percent of sales. Investors made up 20 percent of sales, up from 15 percent in April 2010.

Regionally, existing-home sales fell the most both month-to-month (7.5 percent) and year-over-year (32.1 percent) in the Northeast, to an annual rate of 740,000. The region also saw the biggest year-over year drop in median price, 7.3 percent to $225,400.

The Midwest was the only region to see a month-to-month jump in sales: 5.7 percent to 1.12 million. That’s a 16.4 percent year-over-year decline, however. Median price in the region fell 5.1 percent year-over-year, to $133,200.

The South saw the smallest month-to-month sales decline: 1 percent to 1.95 million. Sales fell 9.3 percent year-over-year. Median price fell the least year-over-year in the region: 4.1 percent to $142,800.

The West saw the smallest year-over-year drop in sales, 0.8 percent, and the second-smallest month-to-month drop, 1.6 percent, to 1.24 million. Median price fell 6.1 percent year-over-year to $203,400.

By far, the biggest share of buyers, 43.3 percent, bought in the $100,000-$250,000 price range.

Median price fell year-over-year in 16 out of 18 major metro areas considered by NAR. Only San Antonio and Washington, D.C., showed increases: 3.6 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively. Atlanta posted the biggest decline, 18.8 percent to $98,100, followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul, 14.6 percent to $145,000.

Sales rose year-over-year in three metro areas, all with high foreclosure rates: Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (18 percent), San Diego (4.8 percent), and Phoenix (1.2 percent).

Sales fell the most in St. Louis (30.1 percent), followed by New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island (29.7 percent) and Philadelphia (26.8 percent).

In a statement earlier this week, Realogy anticipated that the annual rate for both April and May 2011 would remain between 5 million to 5.2 million.

"Looking beyond the second quarter, if NAR’s current seasonally adjusted annual rate holds steady at approximately 5 million units in national sales, then home sale transactions during the third quarter of 2011 will likely experience year-over-year increases of approximately 20 percent compared to 2010," said Richard A. Smith, Realogy president and CEO, in a statement.

Though the company expects a year-over-year decline in home sales in the second quarter, Realogy also expects a "modest increase" in the average home sales price reported by its franchise and company-owned brokerages in April and May compared to the same months a year ago. The company reported a 2 percent increase in average price in the first quarter.

According to Re/Max National Housing Report for April, median sales price in 53 metros areas surveyed fell 7.9 percent year-over-year in April, but rose 2.2 percent year-over-year to $179,386. Sales fell 14.6 percent year-over-year in the markets.

"Nearly a quarter of the transactions in April were investors, who may believe that prices have bottomed and interest rates will soon be heading higher," the report said.

"Perhaps due to several economic concerns, sales activity did not push higher in April, but with increasing investor activity, consumers may follow and jump in as summer approaches."

According to a separate report released by the California Association of Realtors, closed sales of existing, single-family homes in the state fell 2.9 percent month-to-month in April, but rose 5 percent year-over-year, to 499,830 units. The median price of such homes rose 2.5 percent month-to-month and fell 4.4 percent year-over-year, to $293,570.

Unsold inventory stood at 5.4 months last month, up from 4.9 months in April 2010. It took a median 53 days to sell a home last month, compared with 37.4 days in April 2010.

A separate CAR report released today that focused on pending home sales — based on home purchase contracts signed but not yet closed — fell 11 percent month-to-month in April, according to CAR’s Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI). The index was 114.3, down 19.2 percent from April 2010.

The share of distressed homes sold in the state fell slightly in April, to 48 percent from 51 percent in March and 49 percent in April 2010. (bank-owned properties) REOs accounted for 28 percent of sales while short sales accounted for 19 percent.

"The share of sales of nondistressed properties increased during April, as bargain hunters and investors were joined by homebuyers who are timing their buying decisions to coincide with the start of the spring homebuying season," said Beth L. Peerce, CAR’s president, in a statement.

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