The Real Estate Report

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MORTGAGE EXPERT
4 · 29 · 13

While existing home sales and housing inventories recently exhibited month-over-month weakness, year-over-year activity and new home sales were up.

Sales of new homes were a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 417,000 in March, up 1.5 percent from the revised February number and 18.5 percent better than the March 2012 estimate, the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. reported.

The government’s numbers indicated that 153,000 new homes were for sale as of March 31. There were a revised 150,000 new houses for sale at the end of February and 145,000 for sale at the same point last year.

An earlier report from the Census Bureau and HUD indicated that residential building permits on privately owned houses were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 902,000 in March, slowing from a revised 939,000 in February but stronger than an estimated 769,000 in March 2012.

Privately owned housing starts, meanwhile, climbed to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,036,000 from the revised 968,000 in February and 706,000 in the same month last year.

Housing completions rose to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 800,000 from the revised February estimate of 721,000 and the March 2012 rate of 587,000.

The supply of new homes for sale was 4.4 months, the same as the revised number for February but improved from 4.9 months in March 2012.

The National Association of Realtors reported that existing-home sales came in at an annual rate of 4.92 million last month, falling from a revised 4.95 million in February. Activity includes single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops. Still, the pace was better than the 4.46 million a year earlier.

Distressed homes accounted for 21 percent of March sales versus a quarter in February and 29 percent in March 2012. Distressed properties include foreclosures and short sales.

Thirty percent of March sales were first-time home buyers. All-cash sales also accounted for 30 percent of the month’s transactions.

Housing inventory finished March at 1.93 million units, up 1.6 percent from a month earlier and 16.8 percent higher than a year earlier. The inventory represents a 4.7-month supply, not as good as 4.6 months in February but a big improvement from the 6.2-month supply as of March 31, 2012.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun noted that demand is stronger than supply, with buyer traffic up 25 percent from a year earlier, while housing inventory has “trended much lower.”

Pending home sales rose 1.5 percent in March from the revised level in February, leaving the Pending Home Sales Index from NAR at 105.7. The index, which reflects contract signings, is based on a 20 percent sample. An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001.

A 7.0 percent increase was reported from March 2012 — the 23rd consecutive year-over-year improvement.

“Little movement is expected in near-term sales closings, but they should edge up modestly as the year progresses,” Yun stated in the report. “Job additions and rising household wealth will continue to support housing demand.”

Realtors see total existing home sales rising between 6.5 percent and 7 percent this year over 2012.

It took 62 days to market a property in March based on the median time, down from 74 days a month earlier and 91 days a year earlier.

In April’s The MarketPulse, CoreLogic reported that total home sales in February were 3.446 million units on an annualized basis, picking up from 3.114 million a month earlier. The total reflected 0.253 million in new home sales, 2.373 million in existing sales, 0.465 million in REO sales and 0.336 million in short sales.

CoreLogic noted that distressed sales accounted for 23 percent of February’s activity.

Mortgage Expert

Mortgage Daily Staff

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