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Existing Home Sales Surge Over Last Year

Nationwide, existing home sales dropped from February to March, but all major regions of the country experienced year-over-year gains, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

It's important to note that at this time last year homebuying came to a halt, or at least a pause, due to pandemic stay-home orders and recommendations.

The newly released March 2021 numbers marked the second consecutive month of declines.

Overall, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, decreased 3.7% from February to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 6.01 million in March, NAR reported. Total sales climbed year-over-year, up from 5.35 million in March 2020 or 12.3%.

The median existing-single-family home sales price jumped 18.4% to $334,500, a historic high.

Despite several obstacles, the only thing that seems to be slowing home shoppers is the short supply of available properties on the market.

"Consumers are facing much higher home prices, rising mortgage rates, and falling affordability, however, buyers are still actively in the market," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's Chief Economist.

"The sales for March would have been measurably higher, had there been more inventory," he added. "Days-on-market are swift, multiple offers are prevalent, and buyer confidence is rising."

By the end of March, housing inventory totaled 1.07 million units, which is a 3.9% increase from February, but down 28.2% from one year ago (1.49 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 2.1-month supply, modestly up from February's 2.0-month supply and down from the 3.3-month supply recorded in March 2020.

Inventory numbers have hovered around record lows since at least 1982 when NAR began tracking the single-family home supply.

Yun remarked that the depleted supply could ultimately exacerbate wealth division among homeowners in this country.

"Without an increase in supply, the society wealth division will widen with homeowners enjoying sizable equity gains while renters will struggle to become homeowners," Yun said.

Yun said although mortgage rates have inched up, they remain at a favorable level. Plus, he says, the economic outlook is promising.

"At least half of the adult population has received a COVID-19 vaccination, according to reports, and recent housing starts and job creation data show encouraging dynamics of more supply and strong demand in the housing sector."

Distressed sales represented less than 1% of sales in March, equal to February’s percentage but down from 3% in March one year ago. This, of course, is a result of COVID-related foreclosure moratoria, forbearances programs and other allowances to assist struggling borrowers and their servicers.

NAR's housing market indicator report features more metrics, regional breakdowns, an explanation of the team's methodology, and more, at NAR.org.

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media/Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning news, among others. Contact Christina at christina.hughesbabb@thefivestar.com.

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