Sales, prices rise while inventory falls for existing U.S. homes

May 22, 2012 01:30PM

Sales and closing prices of existing U.S. homes grew in April and listed inventory fell, indicating a strengthening recovery, according to data released today by the National Association of Realtors.

Completed sales on existing homes increased 3.4 percent from March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million in April 2012. Sales are up 10 percent from the 4.2 million rate recorded in April 2011. The median price for all types of existing homes rose 10.1 percent from last year to $177,400. The positive growth for April over last year was even stronger in the Northeast where existing-home sales jumped 19.2 percent and median prices gained 8.8 percent.

The inventory of listed existing homes has fallen 20.6 percent from April 2011, although total inventory increased 9.5 percent to 2.54 million from March 2012.

“It is no longer just the investors who are taking advantage of high affordability conditions. A return of normal home buying for occupancy is helping home sales across all price points, and now the recovery appears to be extending to home prices,” Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said. “The general downtrend in both listed and shadow inventory has shifted from a buyers’ market to one that is much more balanced, but in some areas it has become a seller’s market.”

Despite the importance of these apparent improvements in housing for national financial markets, the accuracy of the NAR’s past monthly existing-home data has been called into question and the organization had to adjust years worth of data because it had been gathered incorrectly. — Christopher Cameron