Existing home sales rose 14.5% in February

YOY sales fell 22.6%, due to double-digit declines in all four regions of the U.S.

WASHINGTON — Existing home sales rose 14.5% in February from January, not only ending a 12-month losing streak, but also representing the largest percentage increase since July 2020, the National Association of Realtors announced this week.

Meanwhile, existing home sales compared to February 2022 fell 22.6%, the NAR said.

The total number of homes sold in February was 4.58 million, compared to 4 million in January and 5.92 million in February 2022. Month-over-month sales were up in all regions of the country but were down double digits in all regions year over year.

The NAR attributed the monthly increase to buyers reacting to changing mortgage rates and price decreases in certain markets. The NAR said that Freddie Mac’s 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.6% as of March 16. This is down from 6.73% the prior week but up from 4.16% a year earlier.

“Conscious of changing mortgage rates, home buyers are taking advantage of any rate declines,” said Lawrence Yun, the NAR’s chief economist. “Moreover we’re seeing stronger sales gains in areas where home prices are decreasing and the local economies are adding jobs.”

He added that inventory levels are at historic lows, resulting in multiple offers on many properties.

According to the NAR, total housing inventory at the end of February was 980,000 units, unchanged from January and up 15.3% from the 850,000 recorded in February 2022. Meanwhile, unsold inventory is at a 2.6-month supply at the current sales rate, which is down 10.3% from January and up from 1.7 months in February 2022.

Single-family home sales, which represent the largest number of property sales, rose to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.14 million in February, up 15.3% from 3.59 million in January and down 21.4% from February 2022. This excludes sales of condominiums and co-ops, which represented 440,000 units sold in February, up from 410,000 in January and down 32.3% from February of last year. The median existing condo price was $321,000 in February, up 2.5% from the same period in 2022.

The median existing home price fell .2% from the prior year to $363,000, from $363,700. Prices rose in the Midwest and South, but fell in the Northeast and West, ending 131 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, which the NAR said was the longest on record.

Other highlights of the report are as follows:

+ Properties remained on the market for about 34 days in February, which was up from 33 days in January and 18 days in February 2022. A total of 57% of the homes sold in February were on the market for less than 30 days.

+ First-time buyers represented 27% of sales in February, which was down from 31% in January and 29% from February 2022.

+ All-cash sales represented 28% of transactions in February, down from 29% in January but up 25% from February last year. Individual investors or second-home buyers that account for many cash sales, purchased 18% of the homes in February, up 16% from January, but down from 19% in February 2022.

+ Distressed sales including foreclosures and short sales represented 2% of sales in February, unchanged from January and February 2022.

By region the activity was as follows:

In the Northeast, existing home sales rose 4% in February from January to an annual rate of 520,000. This was down 25.7% from February 2022. The median price in this region was $366,100, down 4.5% from February 2022.

In the Midwest, sales rose 13.5% from January to an annual rate of 1.09 million. The rate fell 18.7% from a year earlier. The median price was $261,200, up 5% from February 2022.

In the South, sales rose 15.9% from January to an annual rate of 2.11 million. They were down 21.3% from February 2022. The median price was $342,000, up 2.7% from last February.

In the West, sales rose 19.4% from January to an annual rate of 860,000. They were down 28.3% from February 2022. The median price was $541,100, down 5.6% from February 2022.

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at tom@homenewsnow.com and at 336-508-4616.

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