Following an all-around weak performance the prior month, the housing market demonstrated signs of life in April—though inventory shortages still make for a difficult environment.
In its Real-Time Price Tracker report for April, national brokerage Redfin reported a 12.4 percent monthly pickup in home sales across its 30 surveyed markets, restoring some faith in sales after an unexpected dive in March.
However, compared to April 2013, last month's sales fell 7.6 percent short, with nine markets posting double-digit annual declines.
Redfin blogger Tommy Unger attributed the yearly drop to continued constraints in inventory, which—though up both monthly and yearly—shrank in some of the most demand-heavy markets, such as Austin (-9.4 percent), Denver (-18.6 percent), and San Francisco (-16 percent), just as the spring season got into full swing.
"The number of homes for sale continues its slow recovery off of 2013 lows, but the inventory situation does not look great across many markets," Unger said. "With half of all markets experiencing a year-over-year decline in homes for sale, things are still difficult. Buyers and potential sellers who want to trade up are asking, 'Where is all the inventory?'"
Also contributing to lower transaction numbers are continued upticks in prices, which rose in April for the 28th straight month to a median $289,932, an annual improvement of 9.4 percent. While still higher than normal, however, Unger notes April's increase is a far cry from the 20 percent gains recorded in late 2012, and with less variability among cities, it seems there might be greater stability behind recent growth.
"When some cities have 25 percent price gains while other cities are flat or down in price, it can lead to difficulty for buyers, sellers and even banks financing mortgages," he said. "If all cities share stable and sustainable housing price appreciation, the whole economy stands to benefit."