Existing home sales remain constrained by limited inventory and tight credit but still managed to eke out a small increase in April the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) said today.  Total existing home sales rose 0.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million in April from 4.94 million in March.  The March number reflects a substantial upward revision from the 4.92 million pace originally reported.  Existing home sales in April were 9.7 percent higher than the 4.53 million sales rate one year earlier.

Existing home sales in April were at the highest pace since the homebuyer tax credits caused the market to spike in November 2009 to a pace of 5.44 million units.  Existing home sales and home prices have been above year-ago levels for 22 and 14 consecutive months respectively.  The last time there were 14 consecutive months of year-over-year price increases was from April 2005 to May 2006.    

Total existing home sales are completed transactions of single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and coop apartments.  Single family sales were up 1.2 percent in April to 4.38 million annual sales from 4.33 million in March (revised from 4.32 million) and were 9.0 percent higher than in April 2012.  Existing condo and coop sales were down, however to an annualized rate of 590,000 units from 610,000 in March, a -3.3 percent change.  April condo sales were 15.7 percent higher than a year earlier.

Existing Home Sales


Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the market is solidly recovering.  "The robust housing market recovery is occurring in spite of tight access to credit and limited inventory.  Without these frictions, existing-home sales easily would be well above the 5-million unit pace," he said.  "Buyer traffic is 31 percent stronger than a year ago, but sales are running only about 10 percent higher.  It's become quite clear that the only way to tame price growth to a manageable, healthy pace is higher levels of new home construction."

Inventory did rise in April, up 11.9 percent from March to 2.16 million existing available homes.  This represents a 5.2 month supply compared to a 4.7 month supply in March.  The inventory is still 13.6 percent lower than in April 2012 when there was a 6.6 month supply.  NAR said inventories are particularly tight in the lower price ranges.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $192,800 in April, up 11.0 percent from April 2012.  The median existing single-family home price was $193,300 which is 11.0 percent above a year ago and the median existing condo price was $189,500, 11.3 percent above the price in April 2012.

The market share of foreclosures and short sales dropped from 21 percent in March to 18 percent in April, seven points below a year earlier.  Eleven percent of April sales were foreclosures, and 7 percent were short sales.  Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 16 percent below market value in April, while short sales were discounted 14 percent.

The median time on market for all homes was 43 days in April, down sharply from 62 days in March, and is 48 percent faster than the 83 days on market in April 2012.  The median is being pulled up by short sales which took 73 days to close while non-distressed sales took 44 days and foreclosures 43.  Forty-four percent of all homes sold in April were on the market for less than a month, while only 8 percent were on the market for a year or longer.

First-time buyers accounted for 29 percent of purchases in April, compared with 30 percent in March and 35 percent in April 2012 while investors purchased 19 percent of homes during the month, the same as the month before and down one percentage point from a year earlier.  Cash sales, which tend to be investor transactions, represented 32 percent of sales compared to 30 percent both in March and in April 2012.

Sales activity varied on a regional basis but all regions of the country posted strong price increases, up by double digits in two of the four regions.  Existing homes sales rose 1.6 percent in the Northeast on a monthly basis and 4.9 percent annually.  The median price in the Northeast was $245,100, up 5.1 percent from a year ago.

Sales were down by 3.4 percent month-over-month in the Midwest but were up 9.8 percent year-over-year.  The median price rose 6.7 percent to $149,300.

In the South, existing-home sales rose 2.0 percent in April and were 14.9 percent above April 2012 sales.  The median price in the South was $168,700, which is 10.6 percent above a year ago.

The West saw sales rise 1.7 percent from March and 4.3 percent from the prior year.  Inventories have been persistently tight in the region and partially account for the 17.5 percent annual price increase there, to a median price of $263,600.