By: Mark Lieberman, Five Star Institute Economist
Existing-home sales fell to 4.48 million (seasonally adjusted annualized rate) in March from an upwardly revised February rate of 4.60 million, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Thursday. Economists had forecast the March sales pace would be 4.62 million. At the same time, the median price of a new home rose to $163,800, its highest level since last November’s $164,000 and up 2.5 percent since March 2011, the first year-year increase in prices since December 2010.
The sales pace was the weakest since November 2011. Sales have slipped in three of the last four months.
The inventory of homes for sale dropped to 2.37 million, the first decline in three months, bringing the months’ supply of homes on the market to 6.3.
March sales – completed transactions – were down 2.6 percent from February but are up 5.2 percent from March 2011. February’s sales pace was originally reported as 4.59 million
From here forward, expect the road to full housing recovery to be choppy at best. HREU is predicting that late 2014 many major US housing markets will start actually appreciating again. (remember that word…appreciation?)
Mentally, emotionally and financially be prepared for housing news for the next 12-18 months to be mixed at best. Good news one day followed by bad news the next. This report about new home sales falling for February is further proof that the housing recovery has a rocky road ahead..
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Homes in some stage of foreclosure accounted for nearly one in four homes sales during the fourth quarter, according to RealtyTrac.
During the three months that ended December 31, homes that were either bank-owned or going through the foreclosure process accounted for 24% of all home sales, up from 20% in the previous quarter and down only slightly from a year earlier when foreclosures accounted for 26% of sales, RealtyTrac said.
In total, 204,080 distressed properties were purchased during the fourth quarter, down 2% from the year-ago quarter. For all of 2011, foreclosure-related sales were down 2% year-over year to 907,138, accounting for 23% of all home sales.
The pending home sales index (PHSI) rose in January to 97.0 from a downwardly revised 95.1 in December. At 97.0, the index is at its highest level since April 2011, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday.
The index rose for the third time in the last four months and the January reading was 8 percent above January 2011 levels, but 26.5 percent below the April 2005 peak. The index began in January 2005.
Pending home sales are counted when sales contracts are signed and are viewed as a leading indicator of existing home sales; recent reports suggest that home re-sales should be a bit stronger over the next couple of months, but at a level that is still fairly subdued.
Stanislaus County has set another record high for home affordability. That's the bright side of the region's continuing real estate slump.
The county's median home sales price slipped to $129,000 in January, which was $1,000 lower than December. The median has been hovering between $125,000 and $135,000 for about two years, according to DataQuick records.
That's a bargain compared with what houses sell for elsewhere in the United States, according to national housing affordability statistics.
Nearly 92 percent of homes sold in Stanislaus County in October, November and December were considered affordable for the county's median-income families. At the 2005 peak of the county's real estate boom, median-income families could afford only 3 percent of the homes sold.
Pending home sales continued to rise in November, reaching their highest level in 19 months, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported late last week.
The trade group’s index of signed sales contracts jumped 7.3 percent between October and November and is 5.9 percent above its level a year earlier. The last time the index was higher was in April 2010 as buyers rushed to beat the deadline for the homebuyer tax credit.
James Frischling, president and co-founder of NewOak Capital, says the latest results are likely to feed the view that there is a recovery going on in the housing market.
California home sales rose for the third consecutive month in December, marking the highest level since January 2011, according to data from the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS(R) (C.A.R.). Sales also were up from a year ago, marking the sixth consecutive annual increase.
"With the economy slowly improving, home buyers -- investors and first-time buyers alike -- took advantage of affordable interest rates and made a push to close escrow by the end of year," said C.A.R. President LeFrancis Arnold. "Robust sales over the past few months signal the housing market is treading above water on its own in the first full year without the government stimulus that has helped housing in the last couple of years."
Closed escrow sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 520,940 in December, according to information collected by C.A.R. from more than 90 local REALTOR(R) associations and MLSs statewide. December's sales were up 3.3 percent from November's revised pace of 504,420 and were up 0.1 percent from the revised 504,420 sales pace recorded in December 2010. The statewide sales figure represents what would be the total number of homes sold during 2011 if sales maintained the December pace throughout the year. It is adjusted to account for seasonal factors that typically influence home sales.
The number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes in November rose to the highest level in a year and a half. The best reading on pending homes sales since a federal home-buying tax credit expired appeared to encourage traders on Wall Street.
Still, the National Association of Realtors cautioned that a growing number of buyers are canceling contracts at the last minute, making the gauge less reliable.
The group said Thursday that its index of sales agreements jumped 7.3 percent last month to a reading of 100.1. A reading of 100 is considered healthy. The last time the index was that high was in April 2010, a month before the tax credit expired.
Stocks rose after the index was released. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 70 points in morning trading, and broader indexes also rose.
Homebuyer demand appears to be intensifying, especially among lower-priced REO properties, according to the Campbell/Inside Mortgage Finance HousingPulse Tracking Survey released Tuesday.
Time-on-market for move-in ready REO was just 10.1 weeks in November, the lowest in 15 months, according to the HousingPulse study. Time-on-market for damaged REO was even lower at 9.0 weeks, also the lowest in 15 months.
Distressed properties accounted for a sizeable 46.1 percent of home purchase transactions last month, based on data compiled for the HousingPulse distressed property index which uses a three-month rolling average.
Data on sales of previously owned U.S. homes from 2007 through October this year will be revised down next week because of double counting, indicating a much weaker housing market than previously thought.
The National Association of Realtors said a benchmarking exercise had revealed that some properties were listed more than once, and in some instances, new home sales were also captured.
"All the sales and inventory data that have been reported since January 2007 are being downwardly revised. Sales were weaker than people thought," NAR spokesman Walter Malony told Reuters.