Existing Home Sales
Existing home sales strengthened in April to 5.77 million, up 8.7% from March and 22.8%from last April. This is the tenth consecutive month of year-over-year increases. According to Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, although part of the uptick was expected from the tax credit, there’s also been a return of buyer confidence, for those who remained on the sideline last year. The return of confidence is a result of stabilized prices, an improved economy, and continued advantageous interest rates. In March, 49% of sales were from first-time buyers.
The median price for an existing home was $173,100 in April, up 2.1% from a year ago and 4% from March. Distressed homes, accounting for a third of last month’s sales, continued skewing prices downward slightly as they typically are discounted 15% compared to typical home sales. Overall, prices this past year showed increased stability over the previous year.
Total housing inventory rose slightly to 4.04 million in March, representing slightly less than an eight-and-a-half month supply of sales (if homes continue to sell at the current pace consistently and no new homes come on the market). Compared to the previous year, there are now 3% more homes on the market. Although this is the first rise in twenty consecutive months of decline when compared to the previous year, NAR’s chief economist believes this increase can be attributed to the summer selling season and that home prices are back on track.
Mortgage rates dipped back below 5% this month due largely in part to the European debt crisis. As confidence in the value of the Euro eroded, more investors chose the U.S. dollar instead. With more demand for dollars, the cost of debt (interest rate) dropped. This event has also shown the global recovery is not free-and-clear of roadblocks to complete recovery. However, experts still anticipate rates will increase to between 6% and 6.5% by the end of the year. As the recovery gains increasing traction, the Federal Reserve will need to increase rates to prevent inflation.