Sales of previously owned homes fell in March for the third consecutive month as rising prices and cold weather discouraged would-be buyers.
Closings, which typically take place a month or two after a contract is signed, fell 0.2% to a 4.59 million annual rate, the lowest level since July 2012, the National Association of Realtors reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 75 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for sales to slow to a 4.56 million annual rate.
Rising home prices have outpaced wage growth, putting ownership out of reach for some Americans. Mortgage rates, while still near historic lows, have been rising and harsh winter weather in January and February probably prevented would-be new owners from venturing out to look for real estate.
“Sales are showing some lingering effects of the weather,” said Kevin Cummins, an economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. “It’s probably going to take a couple more months until you see a bounce.”
Stocks held earlier gains after the report. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 0.4% to 1,879.46 at 10:20 a.m. in New York.
Estimates in the Bloomberg survey ranged from 4.5 million to 4.85 million. February’s pace was unrevised at 4.6 million.
“Sales may be stabilizing,” Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, told reporters as the figures were released. “I do expect some spring bounce in the upcoming months.”
The median price of an existing home climbed 7.9% from March 2013 to $198,500, today’s report showed.