Existing home sales surged 6.8% in March, as buyers were spurred by the government's tax credit that expires at the end of this month, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) said Thursday, April 20.
Sales, which beat analysts' expectations, rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million homes in March, up from 5.01 million in February, when sales fell 0.6%, and 16.1% above the 4.61 million homes in the same month in 2009. Analysts predicted sales would increase 4.6% in March, according to a poll by Reuters.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in a statement it was encouraging to see a broad home sales recovery in nearly every part of the country.
"Sales have been above year-ago levels for nine straight months, and inventory has trended down from year-ago levels for 20 months running," Yun said. "The home buyer tax credit has been a resounding success as these underlying trends point to a broad stabilization in home prices."
The NAR said that first-time buyers purchased 44% of homes in March, up from 42% in February. Investors accounted for 19% of transactions.
Regionally, existing home sales in the Northeast increased 6% to an annual level of 890,000 in March and are 25.4% higher than a year ago. In the Midwest, sales rose 7.2% in March to a pace of 1.19 million and are 15.5% above March 2009. In the South, sales increased 7.1% to an annual level of 1.97 million in March and are 13.9% higher than a year ago. And sales in the West rose 6.6% to an annual rate of 1.3 million in March and are 14% above March 2009.
The national median price for existing homes was $170,700 in March, up 0.4% from the same month last year.
"With home values stabilizing, a revival in home buying confidence will likely help the housing market get back on its feet even as the tax credit impact disappears," Yun said.
Read the full version of the NAR's existing home sales report.
Read a news item on February sales of existing homes from the archives of InvestmentAdvisor.com.