By: Mark Lieberman, Five Star Institute Economist
Existing-home sales rose to 4.62 million (seasonally adjusted annualized rate) in April from a downwardly revised March rate of 4.47 million, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Tuesday. Economists had forecast the April sales pace would be 4.66 million.
The median price of an existing home climbed 10.1 percent to $177,400 from $161,100 in April 2011, the strongest year-to-year gain since January 2006. The median price in April reached its highest level since July 2010 when it was $182,100.
The inventory of homes for sale in April rose to 2.54 million, the highest level since last November, bringing the months’ supply of homes on the market to 6.6.
The 10.0 percent yearly gain in the sales rate was the strongest since October when sales were up 14.0 percent year-over-year.
Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts – accounted for 28 percent of April sales (17 percent were foreclosures and 11 percent were short sales), down from 29 percent in March and 37 percent in April 2011, the NAR said. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 21 percent below market value in April (compared with an average discount of 19 percent in March), while short sales were discounted 14 percent in April compared with 16 percent in March.
The months’ supply of existing homes for sale remains well below the July 2010 cyclical peak of 12.4 which had been the highest level since 1982. Inventories as tracked by the NAR are 20.3 percent below their year ago level. However, anecdotal evidence suggests there is still a large “shadow” inventory of homes available for sale, especially bank-owned properties.
Regionally, existing-home sales rose in April in every region of the country led by a 5.1 percent month-to-month increase in the Northeast where sales were up19.2 percent over April 2011. Sales rose 4.4 percent over March in the West (a 7.3 percent year-year gain), 3.5 percent in the South (6.5 percent year-year) and 1.0 percent in the Midwest (14.4 percent year over year).
The median price of an existing home rose month-to-month and year-to-year in all four regions. At $256,600, the median price of an existing home reached its highest level since August 2010. The median price of an existing home in the South rose to $153,400, the highest level since July 2010 and the median price of an existing home in the West rose to $221,700, also the highest since July 2010.
The year-to-year price gain in the West, 15.9 percent, was the strongest since November 2005. The year-to-year price increase in the Northeast was the first since last June.
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