by Stephen Melman
February 2012 existing home sales were up 8.8 percent from a year ago, although down 0.9 percent from the upwardly revised January level. The February 2012 seasonally adjusted level of 4.59 million sales was up from the 4.22 million level of sales a year ago. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that the February seasonally adjusted sales of existing single-family homes (comprised of completed transactions of single-family, townhouses, condominiums and coops) was down slightly from the revised January seasonally adjusted level of 4.63 million sales.
Single-family existing home sales were 9.4 percent above the level of a year ago, and down 1.0 percent from the upwardly revised January level. The February level of single-family existing sales was 4.06 million compared to the 3.71 million seasonally adjusted single-family existing sales of a year ago, and down from the 4.1 million seasonally adjusted level from January. Condominium and co-op sales were unchanged from the revised January level, and were up 3.9 percent from a year ago to a seasonally adjusted 530,000.
The total housing inventory at the end of February increased 4.3 percent to 2.43 million existing homes for sale. At the current sales level, this inventory represents a 6.4 month supply, up from a 6.0 month supply in January, and down 19.3 percent from a year ago. NAR reported 34 percent of sales were distressed sales, defined as foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts. This level was down from 35 percent in January and 39 percent a year ago.
The January contract cancellation rate was 33 percent compared to 9 percent in February 2011. Some 18 percent of NAR members reported delays and 31 percent experienced contract failures caused by declined mortgage applications and appraisals coming in below the negotiated sales price.
The January Pending Home Sales Index was up 2.0 percent from the previous month and up 8.0 percent from the previous year. So it was expected that February existing home sales would be up from January. The modest decline in February is still consistent with the pattern of increased existing home sales and the Pending Home Sales Index.