The pace of existing-home sales picked up in April, and while the number of homes on the market grew even faster, an "acute shortage of inventory" in some markets is driving up prices and creating multiple-bid situations, the National Association of Realtors said today.
Sales of existing single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops were up 3.4 percent from March to April, NAR said, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million. That’s a 10 percent increase from the 4.2 million homes-per-year pace seen at the same time a year ago.
Distressed properties — foreclosures and short sales sold at discounts — accounted for a smaller percentage of sales in April (28 percent) then they did a year ago (37 percent).
That helped boost the median existing-home price for all housing types in April by 10.1 percent from a year ago, to $177,400. Median home prices were also up 3.1 percent in March, marking the first time since the summer of 2010 that median prices have posted annual gains for two months in a row.
The inventory of existing homes on the market also shot up 9.5 percent to 2.54 million. At the pace homes were selling in April, that represented 6.6 months of supply — up from 6.2 months in March. A six-month supply of inventory is generally considered an even balance of demand between buyers and sellers.
At this time last year, the inventory of homes on the market was equal to a 9.1-month supply. In July 2007, there were a record 4.04 million existing homes for sale.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said the diminishing share of foreclosed property sales is helping home values. He said NAR expects stronger price increases in markets where homes are in short supply, including Washington, D.C.; Miami; Naples, Fla.; North Dakota; Phoenix; Orange County, Calif.; and Seattle.
First-time buyers accounted for 35 percent of April sales, up from 33 percent in March but down slightly from 36 percent a year ago. NAR estimated 29 percent of April sales were all cash, down from 32 percent in March and 31 percent a year ago. Investors purchased one out of five homes in April, little changed from March or the same time last year.
Single-family home sales rose 3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.09 million in April, up 9.9 percent from a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $178,000, up 10.4 percent from April 2011.
Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000 in April, up 10.4 percent from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $172,900 in April, up 8.1 percent from a year ago.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 5.1 percent to an annual level of 620,000 in April, up 19.2 percent from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $256,600, up 8.8 percent from April 2011.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 1 percent in April to a pace of 1.03 million, up 14.4 percent from April 2011. The median price in the Midwest was $141,400, up 7.4 percent from a year ago.
In the South, existing-home sales rose 3.5 percent to an annual level of 1.79 million in April, up 6.5 percent from a year ago. The median price in the South was $153,400, up 8 percent from April 2011.
Existing-home sales in the West increased 4.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.18 million in April, up 7.3 percent from a year ago. The median price in the West was $221,700, up 15.9 percent from a year ago.