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US existing-home sales fell in February following three straight
monthly increases, according to the National Association of
Realtors. Distressed/bank sales accounted for 39% of the
Existing-home sales, which are completed
transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums
and co-ops, dropped 9.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual
rate of 4.88m in February from an upwardly revised 5.40m in January, and are 2.8% below the 5.02m
pace in February 2010.
Lawrence Yun NAR chief economist, expects an uneven
recovery. “Housing affordability conditions have been at record
levels and the economy has been improving, but home sales are
being constrained by the twin problems of unnecessarily tight
credit, and a measurable level of contract cancellations from
some appraisals not supporting prices negotiated between buyers
and sellers,” he said. “This tug and pull is causing a gradual
but uneven recovery. Existing-home sales remain 26.4%
above the cyclical low last July.”
A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows
first-time buyers purchased 34% of homes in February, up
from 29% in January; they were 42% in February
All-cash sales were a record 33% in February, up from
32% in January; they were 27% in February 2010.
Investors accounted for 19% of sales activity in
February, down from 23% in January; they were 19%
in February 2010. The balance of sales were to repeat buyers.
The national median existing-home price for all
housing types was $156,100 in February, which is 5.2%
below February 2010. Distressed homes (foreclosure/bank
forced sales) - -sold at discount –
accounted for a 39% market share in February, up from 37% in January and 35% in February 2010. “The
decline in price corresponds to the record level of all-cash
purchases where buyers – largely investors – are snapping up
homes at bargain prices,” Yun explained. “We’d be seeing
greater numbers of traditional home buyers if mortgage credit
conditions return to normal.”
Total housing inventory at the end of February rose 3.5% to 3.49m existing homes available for sale, which
represents an 8.6-month supply at the current sales
pace, up from a 7.5-month supply in January.
According to the federal mortgage finance guarantor, Freddie Mac, the
average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional,
fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.95% in February from 4.76% in January; the rate was 4.99% in February 2010.
Single-family home sales fell 9.6% to a seasonally
adjusted annual rate of 4.25m in February from 4.70m in January, and are 2.7% below the 4.37m
pace in February 2010. The median existing single-family home
price was $157,000 in February, which is 4.2% below a
Existing condominium and co-op sales dropped 10.0% to
a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 630,000 in February from
700,000 in January, and are 3.1% lower than the
650,000-unit level one year ago. The median existing condo
price was $150,400 in February, down 11.1%
from February 2010.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 7.2% to an annual pace of 770,000 in February and are 8.3% below February 2010. The median price in the Northeast
was $230,200, down 9.5% from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest dropped 12.2% in
February to a level of 1.01m and are 9.0% lower
than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $122,000,
which is 5.4% below February 2010.
In the South, existing-home sales fell 10.2% to an
annual pace of 1.84m in February but are unchanged from
February 2010. The median price in the South was $134,600, down
3.9% from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West declined 8.0% to an
annual level of 1.26m in February and are 2.4%
below a year ago. The median price in the West was $190,000,
which is 5.2% below January 2010.
CNBC's Diana Olick has the data on home sales from the month of February: