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Economy in Brief

U.S. Existing Home Sales Improve
by Tom MoellerApril 22,2010

As often is the case, March weather came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. Also coming last month was the April expiration of a Federal home-buyer tax credit. Together, these forces helped lift existing home sales by 6.8% to 5.350M (AR) according to the National Association of Realtors. The gain followed declines during the prior thee months and slightly exceeded Consensus expectations. Total sales include sales of condos and co-ops. Sales of existing single-family homes alone rose 7.3% from February to 4.680M. (These data have a longer history than the total sales series). Sales of condos and co-ops rose by nearly one-third from the last year.

Sales recently have been helped by a tax credit for first-time home buyers. The credit of up to $8,000 runs though April 30. Additionally, a credit of up to $6,500 is available to some existing home owners who move. The full details of the home-buyer tax credit can be found here.

The median price of all existing homes also improved last month to $170,700 but remained off 25% from the 2007 peak. The price of a single-family home rose 4.1% to $170,700 (-2.1% y/y). Earlier price weakness sharply raised home affordability; by three-quarters from the 2006 low. The median family income for existing home buyers was $60,498 and mortgage payments amounted to 14.2% of that total.

The number of unsold homes (single-family & co-ops) for sale rose 1.5%; down slightly from last year. At the current sales rate there was an 8.0 months' supply of homes on the market. That was down from a high of 11.2 months during April of 2008. For single-family homes, the inventory rose m/m to a 7.7 months' supply.

The data on existing home sales, prices and affordability can be found in Haver's USECON database. The regional price, affordability and inventory data is available in the REALTOR database.

Existing Home Sales (Thous, SAAR) March February January March Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Total 5,350 5,010 5,050 16.1% 5,160 4,893 5,674
  Northeast 890 840 820 25.4 863 845 1,010
  Midwest 1,190 1,110 1,080 15.5 1,166 1,130 1,331
  South 1,970 1,840 1,870 13.9 1,913 1,860 2,243
  West 1,300 1,220 1,280 14.0 1,216 1,064 1,095
Single-Family Sales 4,680 4,360 4,430 13.3 4,573 4,341 4,960
Median Price, Total, $ (NSA) 170,700 164,600 164,900 0.4 172,742 197,233 216,633
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