The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of existing home sales in February increased by 3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.54 million from a total of 5.38 million in January.
The February increase stops a string of two consecutive months on sales decreases. The consensus estimate called for sales to reach 5.42 million, according to a survey of economists polled by Bloomberg.
In 2017 existing-home sales rose 1.1% year over year, the best level in 11 years. The seasonally adjusted annual rate came in at 5.51 million, the highest since posting 6.48 million in 2006.
The NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said:
A big jump in existing sales in the South and West last month helped the housing market recover from a two-month sales slump. The very healthy U.S. economy and labor market are creating a sizeable interest in buying a home in early 2018. However, even as seasonal inventory gains helped boost sales last month, home prices – especially in the West – shot up considerably. Affordability continues to be a pressing issue because new and existing housing supply is still severely subpar.
Housing inventory increased by 4.6% in February to 1.59 million homes, equal to a supply of 3.4 months, down from 3.8 months in February 2017. It has fallen year over year for 33 consecutive months. Inventory is down 8.1% year over year from 1.73 million in February 2017.
According to the NAR, the national median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $241,700, up 5.9% compared with February 2017, the 72nd consecutive month of rising home prices. In January the national median price was $240,500.
The percentage of first-time buyers remained flat month over month at 29%. For all of 2017, first-time buyers accounted for 34% of sales, down one percentage point compared with 2016.
Sales of single-family homes rose 4.2% from the January total of 4.76 million to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.96 million, and it was up 1.8% compared with February 2017. Sales of multifamily homes decreased by 6.5% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 580,000 units.
All homes were on the market for an average of 37 days in February, four fewer days month over month and down from 45 days in February 2017. Foreclosure (3%) and short (1%) sales accounted for 4% of all February sales, down by one percentage point compared with the prior month and down from 7% in February 2017.
The NAR also reported the following regional data.
February existing-home sales in the Northeast tumbled 12.3% to an annual rate of 640,000 compared with January and are down 7.2% compared with February 2017 sales. The median price in the Northeast was $58,900, up 3.6% compared with February of last year.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales fell 2.4% to an annual rate of 1.22 million in February and were unchanged compared with the February 2017 rate. The median price in the Midwest was $179,400, up 4.5% from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the South jumped 6.6% in February to an annual rate of 2.41 million and moved to 3.4% above February 2017 sales. The median price in the South was $215,700, up 5.4% from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West soared 11.4% to an annual rate of 1.27 million in February, up 3.4% compared with February 2017 totals. The median price in the West was $370,600, up 9.6% compared with the February 2017 median.