Here’s Why Existing Home Sales Were Up in March

According to the National Association of Realtors, Existing Home Sales came in at 5.1 million annualized sales– a tad higher than Wall Street’s expectations for 5 million sales. Here’s your Cheat Sheet:

Sales: Came in at an annual rate of 5.10 million in March.

Month-over-Month Change: This is 3.7% above the upwardly revised 4,92 million in February 2011.

Year-over-Year Change: This is 6.3% below  the 5.44 million pace in March 2010.

Prices: The national median existing-home price of $159,600 in March was 5.9 percent below March 2010.

Inventory: Up 1.5 percent to 3.55 million existing homes available for sale. This represents a supply of 8.4 months at the current sales rate, down from 8.5 months in February.

Noteworthy Stats: Distressed homes – typically sold at discounts in the vicinity of 20 percent – accounted for a 40 percent market share in March, up from 39 percent in February and 35 percent in March 2010.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 8.2 percent to an annual level of 1.99 million in March but are 1.0 percent below March 2010. The median price in the South was $138,200, down 6.6 percent from a year ago.

All-cash sales were at a record market share of 35 percent in March, up from 33 percent in February; they were 27 percent in March 2010. Investors accounted for 22 percent of sales activity in March, up from 19 percent in February; they were 19 percent in March 2010. The balance of sales were to repeat buyers.

Commentary: Lawrence Yun NAR chief economist, (insanely??) expects the improving sales pattern to continue.. “Existing-home sales have risen in six of the past eight months, so we’re clearly on a recovery path,” he said. “With rising jobs and excellent affordability conditions, we project moderate improvements into 2012, but not every month will show a gain – primarily because some buyers are finding it too difficult to obtain a mortgage. For those fortunate enough to qualify for financing, monthly mortgage payments as a percent of income have been at record lows.”

More Details: Single-family home sales rose 4.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.45 million in March from 4.28 million in February, but are 6.5 percent below the 4.76 million level in March 2010. The median existing single-family home price was $160,500 in March, down 5.3 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 1.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 650,000 in March from 640,000 in February, but are 4.1 percent below the 678,000-unit pace one year ago. The median existing condo price5 was $153,100 in March, which is 10.1 percent below March 2010.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 3.9 percent to an annual level of 800,000 in March but are 12.1 percent below March 2010. The median price in the Northeast was $232,900, down 3.0 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 1.0 percent in March to a pace of 1.06 million but are 13.1 percent lower than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $126,100, which is 7.1 percent below March 2010.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 8.2 percent to an annual level of 1.99 million in March but are 1.0 percent below March 2010. The median price in the South was $138,200, down 6.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West slipped 0.8 percent to an annual pace of 1.25 million in March and are 3.1 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $192,100, which is 11.2 percent lower than March 2010.