The firm, estimating an annual rate of 5.25 million sales, including those of single-family, condo, townhome, short, and distressed sales, reported that March showed a 0.4 percent uptick in overall transactions compared to February and a full 8 percent increase over sales in March 2013.
At the same time, the median sale price of U.S. residential properties reached $164,500, which is 1 percent higher than February and 10 percent above last March—the biggest year-over-year increase in a 24-month span in which U.S. median home prices increased on a year-over-year basis every month.
RealtyTrac’s data might at first seem to clash with other reports released this week about March sales.
Earlier this week, a joint report by HUD and the Census Bureau showed that the pace of new single-family home sales nationally dropped by more than 14 percent from February to March—the lowest numbers in eight months—and another report by the National Association of Realtors showed that sales of existing single-family homes slipped by 0.2 percent during the same time period.
Both estimates showed that sales were significantly off pace with the previous March.
RealtyTrac’s sweeping overview of how the overall residential market played out in the entire first quarter, however, paints a complex picture. Investors and second home buyers, for instance, accounted for a full third of all sales the firm tracked. A further 7 percent of sales were transactions in which multiple properties were sold on the same date and recorded on the same sales deed—and, therefore, likely not reported on any multiple listing service.
There is, however, no one market. Brokers from around the country reported varied environments in local markets. In Southern California, for example, inventory levels and home prices are on the rise. In Oklahoma, prices are going up, but inventory is going down and fewer buyers are showing up. Similar trends have appeared in the Salt Lake City market, where demand for homes far outweighs supply.
In Ohio, increased showings are leading to higher prices, particularly in the Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton markets, which all saw double-digit percentage increases in median home prices in March and a steady increase in existing home equity.
“As buyer demand has increased, so too has the number of multiple offer situations,” commented Michael Mahon, EVP and broker at HER Realtors, which covers those Ohio markets. “These multiple offer situations are causing buyers to purchase in cash instead of mortgage financing to increase their negotiation power.”
At the same time, shrinking inventory in the Denver market led to an 8 percent year-over-year drop in closings in March.
Further complicating the picture is the fact that while sales across the country averaged out to show an upswing, overall sales volume dropped in six states—Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California, Connecticut, Nevada, and Arizona—and nearly half of the 50 largest metros in the United States, most notably in San Jose, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, home price appreciation cooled in some of the first markets that bounced back from the recession. Though prices in San Francisco; Detroit; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida; and Phoenix were still on the rise, they rose at a slower rate in Q1 2014 than they did the year before.