Sales of existing U.S. homes in March reached their highest annual pace since September 2013, buoyed by continued low mortgate interest rates and a firming employment scene, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Total existing-home sales rose 6.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million in March, up from 4.89 million the month before. Compared with a year ago, sales are up 10.4 percent with year-over-year sales having increased now for the past six straight months.
“After a quiet start to the year, sales activity picked up greatly throughout the country in March,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “The combination of low interest rates and the ongoing stability in the job market is improving buyer confidence and finally releasing some of the sizable pent-up demand that accumulated in recent years.”
Long-term mortgage interest rates did rise slightly in March, climbing to an average of 3.77 percent, excluding fees, on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, up from 3.71 percent in February. Yet compared with historical averages, mortgage rates still rest close to all-time lows, making getting in mortgage loan extremely attractive to potential buyers.
Prices and inventory increased in March as well. The national median existing-home price grew to $212,100, a 7.8 percent jump from the year before. Prices have now risen on a year-over-year basis for the last 37 consecutive months. The number of previously-owned homes for sale increased 5.3 percent by the end of March to 2.00 million homes, representing a 4.6-month supply of homes at the current sales pace.
Distressed properties continue to dwindle in market presence. They made up just 10 percent of sales in March, down from 11 percent in February and 14 percent from March 2014. As these sales decline, home prices in general are able to make a solid recovery.