Existing-home sales fell in March, following a February that saw significant nationwide gains, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR)
, as each of the four major regions reported a dip in sales, with the West suffering the largest decrease. Total existing-home sales dropped 8.5 % from February to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.27 million in March. Despite the decline, overall sales increased year-over-year for the ninth straight month, up 0.8% from a year ago (5.23 million in March 2019).
“Unfortunately, we knew home sales would wane in March due to the Coronavirus outbreak,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “More temporary interruptions to home sales should be expected in the next couple of months, though home prices will still likely rise.”
While sales have declined, home prices remained strong, as the median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $280,600, up 8.0% from March 2019 ($259,700), as prices increased in every region. March’s national price increase marks 97 straight months of year-over-year gains.
Total housing inventory at the end of March totaled 1.50 million units, up 2.7% from February, but down 10.2% from one year ago (1.67 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 3.4-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 3.0-months in February and down from the 3.8-month figure recorded in March 2019.
“Earlier in the year, we watched inventory gradually tick upward but with the current quarantine recommendations in place, fewer sellers are listing homes, which will limit buyer choices,” Yun said. “Significantly more listings are needed and more will come on to the market once the economy steadily reopens.”
First-time buyers were responsible for 34% of sales in March, up from both 32% in February and 33% in March 2019. NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers–released in late 2019–revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.
“It is NAR’s top priority to continue to aid and assist Realtors during these unpredicted, trying times,” said NAR President Vince Malta, a broker at Malta & Company Inc. in San Francisco, Calif. “We have played an instrumental role on Capitol Hill as Congress secured multiple federal relief packages, and we will continue fighting on behalf of our 1.4 million members, American consumers and the nation’s economy as these conversations persist.”
Compared to the month prior, March sales decreased in every region, while the Midwest and the South experienced increases in year-over-year sales. Median home prices in all regions increased from one year ago, with the Northeast and Midwest regions showing the strongest price gains.
March 2020 existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 7.1%, recording an annual rate of 650,000, a 3.0% decrease from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $300,400, up 8.3% from March 2019. Existing-home sales decreased 3.1% in the Midwest to an annual rate of 1.25 million, up 4.2% from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $219,700, a 9.7% increase from March 2019. Existing-home sales in the South dropped 9.1% to an annual rate of 2.29 million in March, up 0.9% from the same time one year ago. The median price in the South was $245,100, a 7.5% increase from a year ago. Existing-home sales in the West fell 13.6% to an annual rate of 1.08 million in March, a 0.9% decline from a year ago. The median price in the West was $420,600, up 8.0% from March 2019.