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Economy in Brief

U.S. Existing Home Sales Fall in March as Supply Remains Tight
by Tom Moeller  April 22, 2021

• Existing home sales decline to lowest level since last August.

• Inventory of unsold homes falls sharply from last year.

• Prices rise to record high.

The market for previously owned homes weakened last month after sales declined in February. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that sales of existing homes fell 3.7% (+12.3% y/y) to 6.010 million (SAAR) during March after declining to 6.240 million in February, revised from 6.220 million. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected March sales of 6.10 million. Data are compiled when existing home sales close.

A tight housing supply continues to restrain sales. The number of homes on the market improved 3.9% (NSA) to 1.07 million last month, the first m/m increase since last May. The number declined, however, by 28.2% y/y and remained near the record low of 1.03 million units. (The figures date back to January 1999.) The months' supply of homes on the market remained near the record low at 2.1 months, below a recent high of 4.6 months in May of last year.

Sales declined across the country last month. Existing home sales in the West weakened 8.0% (+15.5% y/y) to 1.270 million, the third decline in four months. In the South, sales decreased 2.9% (+15.9% y/y) to 2.700 million units after falling 5.8% in February. Sales in the Midwest were off 2.3% (+0.8% y/y) to 1.28 million, down for the fourth month in the last five. In the Northeast, sales eased 1.3% (+16.9% y/y) to 760,000 units, also down for the fourth month in the last five.

The median price of an existing home increased 5.9% (17.2% y/y) to a record $329,100. The median home price in the West rose 3.2% (16.8% y/y) to $493,300. In the Northeast, prices improved 1.9% (21.4% y/y) to $364,800. The median home price in the South rose 5.0% (15.6% y/y) to $283,900. In the Midwest, prices strengthened 7.2% (13.5% y/y) to $248,200. The average sales price of all existing homes rose 3.8% last month (12.4% y/y) to $355,200. The price data are not seasonally adjusted.

Sales of existing single-family homes weakened 4.3% (+10.4% y/y) to 5.300 million units after falling in three of the prior four months. Sales of condos and co-ops improved 1.4% (29.1% y/y) to 710,000 units after falling 6.7% in February.

The data on existing home sales, prices and affordability are compiled by the National Association of Realtors. The data trace back to February 1968. Total sales and price data and regional sales can be found in Haver's USECON database. Regional price and affordability data and national inventory data are available in the REALTOR database. The expectations figure is from the Action Economics Forecast Survey, reported in the AS1REPNA database.

Existing Home Sales (SAAR, 000s) Mar Feb Jan Mar Y/Y % 2020 2019 2018
Total Sales 6,010 6,240 6,660 12.3 5,658 5,327 5,334
   Northeast 760 770 870 16.9 705 684 686
   Midwest 1,280 1,310 1,530 0.8 1,339 1,246 1,262
   South 2,700 2,780 2,950 15.9 2,458 2,282 2,246
   West 1,270 1,380 1,310 15.5 1,156 1,115 1,141
 Single-Family Sales 5,300 5,540 5,910 10.4 5,076 4,749 4,736
Median Price Total ($, NSA) 329,100 310,700 303,600 17.2 295,217 269,783 257,267
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