by Stephen Melman — Eye on Housing
March 2012 existing home sales declined 2.6 percent from the upwardly revised February level, but are up 5.2 percent from the same period a year ago. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported March 2012 total existing home sales were at a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.48 million single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops. The upwardly revised February 2012 seasonally adjusted rate was 4.6 million sales, and the seasonally adjusted rate in March 2011 was 4.26 million units.
In March 2012, single-family existing home sales were 5.9 percent above the level of a year ago, and down 2.5 percent from February. The March 2012 level of single-family existing sales was 3.97 million sales compared to the 3.75 million seasonally adjusted single-family existing sales of a year ago, and down from the 4.07 million seasonally adjusted level of February. Condominium and co-op sales in March 2012 were down 3.8 percent from February, and unchanged from the same period a year ago at a seasonally adjusted rate of 510,000.
The total housing inventory at the end of March decreased 1.3 percent from the previous month to 2.37 million existing homes for sale, down from 2.4 million homes in February. At the current sales rate, the March 2012 inventory represents a 6.3-month supply which is unchanged from February, but much improved from the 8.5-month supply of over 3 million homes a year ago. NAR reported 29 percent of March 2012 sales were distressed sales, defined as foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts. This level was down from 34 percent in February and 40 percent a year ago. The median existing home sales price was $163,800 in March 2012, up 2.5 percent from the same period a year ago.
March 2012 all cash sales decreased to 32 percent of transactions, down from 33 percent in February and 35 percent from the same period a year ago. Investors accounted for 21 percent of March 2012 home sales, down from 23 percent in February and 22 percent a year ago. First-time buyers accounted for 33 percent of March 2012 sales, the same level as a year ago.
The February 2012 Pending Home Sales Index decreased 0.5 percent from January. So it was expected that existing home sales would likely decline slightly in March. The decrease in March 2012 existing sales is consistent with the pattern between existing home sales and the Pending Home Sales Index.