February Existing Home Sales Jump Nearly 12%, Still Trail Year-Ago Total

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that the seasonally adjusted annual rate of existing home sales in February jumped 11.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.51 million from a total of 4.94 million in January. Sales remain down 1.8% compared to January 2018 sales of 5.61 million.

The month-over-month gain was the largest since December 2015, according to the NAR. The consensus estimate called for February sales to reach 5.1 million, according to a survey of economists polled by Bloomberg.

The NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said:

A powerful combination of lower mortgage rates, more inventory, rising income and higher consumer confidence is driving the sales rebound. 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 [accessible] key boxes.

Existing home sales closed 2018 with a seasonally adjusted December total of 4.99 million. The seasonally adjusted number for December 2017 was 5.56 million.

Housing inventory increased by 3.2% in February to 1.63 million homes, equal to a supply of 3.5 months, down by 0.4 months compared with January. Inventory is up from 3.4 months year over year in compared to February 2018.

According to the NAR, the national median existing home price for all housing types in November was $249,500, up 3.6% compared with February 2018, the 84th consecutive month of rising home prices. In January the national median price was $247,500.

The percentage of first-time buyers increased from 29% in January to 32%, and equal to the percentage in February 2018. For all of 2018, first-time buyers accounted for 33% of sales.

Sales of single-family homes rose from a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.36 million in January to 4.94 million in February and are down 1.4% compared with February 2018. Sales of multifamily homes remained flat month over month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 570,000 units.

All homes were on the market for an average of 44 days in February, down by five days month over month and up from 37 days in February 2018. Distressed sales — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 4% of all February sales, unchanged compared with the prior month and February 2018 distressed sales.

The NAR also reported the following regional data:

February existing home sales in the Northeast remained flat an annual rate of 690,000 and were up 1.5% compared with February 2018 sales. The median price in the Northeast was $272,900, up 3.8% compared with the same month last year.

In the Midwest, existing home sales increased by 9.5% last month to an annual rate of 1.27 million, roughly flat compared with the February 2018 rate. The median price in the Midwest was $188,800, up 5.4% from a year ago.

Existing home sales in the South jumped 14.9% in February to an annual rate of 2.39 million and were down 0.4% compared to February 2018 sales. The median price in the South was $219,300, up 2.5% from a year ago.

Existing home sales in the West popped 16% to an annual rate of 1.16 million in February and are down 7.9% compared with February 2018 totals. The median price in the West was $379,300, up 3% compared with the February 2018 median.

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