6 Actually Important Findings From NAR’s Existing-Home Sales Report

by Peter Thomas Ricci

While everyone fixates on the specific rate of existing-home sales, here were the similarly important findings in the report.

By now, you’ve probably seen the headlines stemming from NAR’s latest existing-home sales report, namely that sales declined 0.2 percent monthly and 7.5 percent yearly to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million, which is the lowest sales rate for existing homes since July 2012.

It’s an important stat, and one that drives home housing’s early 2014 slowdown, but it obscures the many other important findings from NAR’s report. Here are the six most important findings from the report:

1. Prices are still increasing – As we’ve seen here in our local market, existing-home price on the national scene continued to increase in March, rising 7.9 percent year over year.

2. Distressed sales are down, WAY down – Arguably the most important finding in the report, distressed sales accounted for just 14 percent of all home sales in March. That’s down from 16 percent in February and 21 percent in March 2013, and going even further into the past, down from 29 percent in March 2012 and 40 percent from March 2011; so though sales may have been down in March, the makeup of those sales was the healthiest it’s been in years. Case in point, while distressed sales dropped 38 percent from a year ago, conventional sales were UP 0.7 percent.

3. Housing inventory is rising, but SLOWLY – Though the nation’s housing inventory increased 4.7 percent in March to a 5.2-month supply, that’s only a 0.5-month increase from a year ago, and year-to-date, inventory is up just 3.1 percent from 2013.

4. Median time on market continues to fall – The nation’s median time on market was 55 days in March, down from 62 days in both February and March 2013; on a very encouraging note, 37 percent of homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month.

5. First-time buyers are still MIA – Oh beloved first-time homebuyers, where have you gone? The answer, of course, is multifaceted (and with a drizzling of student-loan syrup on top), and March was another disappointing month for the beleaguered group of consumers, with just 30 percent of purchases going to first-time buyers.

6. All-cash remains prevalent – This will hardly surprise anyone who follows our site, but all-cash sales still made up 33 percent of all sales in March, down from 35 percent in February but up from 30 percent in March.

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