WASHINGTON (March 22, 2019) — (RealEstateRama) — Existing-home sales rebounded strongly in February, experiencing the largest month-over-month gain since December 2015, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Three of the four major U.S. regions saw sales gains, while the Northeast remained unchanged from last month.
Total existing-home sales1, https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, shot up 11.8 percent from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.51 million in February. However, sales are down 1.8 percent from a year ago (5.61 million in February 2018).
Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, credited a number of aspects to the jump in February sales. “A powerful combination of lower mortgage rates, more inventory, rising income and higher consumer confidence is driving the sales rebound.”
The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in February was $249,500, up 3.6 percent from February 2018 ($240,800). February’s price increase marks the 84th straight month of year-over-year gains.
Total housing inventory3 at the end of February increased to 1.63 million, up from 1.59 million existing homes available for sale in January, a 3.2 percent increase from 1.58 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 3.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.9 months in January but up from 3.4 months in February 2018.
“It is very welcoming to see more inventory showing up in the market,” says Yun. “Consumer foot traffic consequently is rising as measured by the opening rate of SentriLockÒ key boxes.”
NAR’s SentriLockÒ data, for key access to unlock a home, was measurably higher in January and February compared to the second half of 2018.
Properties remained on the market for an average of 44 days in February, down from 49 days in January but up from 37 days a year ago. Forty-one percent of homes sold in February were on the market for less than a month.
Yun, who has called for more inventory over the course of 2018, says the market would benefit greatly in 2019 with additional new housing.
“For sustained growth, significant construction of moderately priced-homes is still needed. More construction will help boost local economies and more home sales will help lessen wealth inequality as more households can enjoy in housing wealth gains.” A typical homeowner accumulated an estimated $8,700 in housing equity over the past 12 months and $21,300 over the past 24 months.
Realtor.com®’s Market Hotness Index, measuring time-on-the-market data and listing views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in January were Midland, Texas; Chico, California; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Spokane-Spokane Valley, Washington; and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California.
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate (link is external)for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 4.37 percent in February from 4.46 percent in January. The average commitment rate across all of 2018 was 4.54 percent.
“We’re very happy to see homebuyers returning to the market, as the beginning of Spring represents a prime time to purchase a new home,” said NAR President John Smaby, a second-generation Realtor® from Edina, Minnesota and broker at Edina Realty. “Potential buyers and sellers should seek out a local RealtorÒ to stay abreast of the market and take advantage of the various housing benefits that are currently being extended during housing transactions.”
First-time buyers were responsible for 32 percent of sales in February, up from last month and a year ago (both 29 percent). NAR’s 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in late 20184 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33 percent.
All-cash sales accounted for 23 percent of transactions in February, equal to January’s percentage, but marginally down from a year ago (24 percent). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 16 percent of homes in February, identical to January’s 16 percent, but a tick up from a year ago (15 percent).
Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – represented 4 percent of sales in February, equal to both the 4 percent represented in January and at this time a year ago. One percent of February sales were short sales.
Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales sit at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million in February, up from 4.36 million in January and down 1.4 percent from 5.01 million a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $251,400 in February, up 3.6 percent from February 2018.
Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 570,000 units in February, unchanged from last month and down 5.0 percent from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $233,300 in February, which is up 3.1 percent from a year ago.
February existing-home sales numbers in the Northeast were identical to last month. The annual rate of 690,000 is 1.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $272,900, which is up 3.8 percent from February 2018.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales rose 9.5 percent from last month to an annual rate of 1.27 million, roughly even to February 2018 levels. The median price in the Midwest was $188,800, which is up 5.4 percent from last year.
Existing-home sales in the South grew 14.9 percent to an annual rate of 2.39 million in February, down 0.4 percent from last year. The median price in the South was $219,300, up 2.5 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West rocketed 16.0 percent to an annual rate of 1.16 million in February, 7.9 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $379,300, up 3.0 percent from February 2018.
The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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NOTE: For local information, please contact the local association of Realtors® for data from local multiple listing services. Local MLS data is the most accurate source of sales and price information in specific areas, although there may be differences in reporting methodology.
1 Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from Multiple Listing Services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. NAR rebenchmarks home sales periodically using other sources to assess overall home sales trends, including sales not reported by MLSs.
Existing-home sales, based on closings, differ from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which account for more than 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample – about 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.
The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.
Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.
2 The median price is where half sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical of market conditions than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if additional data is received.
The national median condo/co-op price often is higher than the median single-family home price because condos are concentrated in higher-cost housing markets. However, in a given area, single-family homes typically sell for more than condos as seen in NAR’s quarterly metro area price reports.
3 Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).
4 Survey results represent owner-occupants and differ from separately reported monthly findings from NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index , which include all types of buyers. Investors are under-represented in the annual study because survey questionnaires are mailed to the addresses of the property purchased and generally are not returned by absentee owners. Results include both new and existing homes.
5 Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), days on market, first-time buyers, all-cash transactions and investors are from a monthly survey for the NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index , posted at nar.realtor.
NOTE: NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index for February is scheduled for release on March 28, and Existing-Home Sales for March will be released April 22; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.