PhotoSales of previously-owned homes jumped in March to their highest pace since February 2007, as severe supply shortages resulted in the typical home being snapped up faster than in the previous month.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports total existing-home sales -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops – rose 4.4% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million. That sales pace is 5.9% above a year ago, with the West being the only region to suffer a sales decline.

"The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain. Sales will go up as long as inventory does."

Pricing and inventory

The median existing-home price -- the point at which half the prices are higher and half are lower -- for all housing types in March was $236,400, up 6.8% from March 2016 and marking the 61st consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of the month was up 5.8% to 1.83 million existing homes available for sale. Still, it's 6.6% lower than a year earlier and has fallen year-over-year for 22 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 3.8-month supply at the current sales pace.

"Bolstered by strong consumer confidence and underlying demand, home sales are up convincingly from a year ago nationally and in all four major regions despite the fact that buying a home has gotten more expensive over the past year," Yun added.

Sales by region

  • Existing-home sales in the Northeast shot up 10.1% in March to an annual rate of 760,000, and are now 4.1% above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $260,800 -- up 2.8% from March 2016.
  • In the Midwest, sales surged 9.2% to an annual rate of 1.31 million, which is 3.1% above a year ago. The median price rose 6.2% from a year earlier to $183,000.
  • Sales in the South in March were up 3.4% to an annual rate of 2.42 million, posting an 8.5% year-over-year gain. The median price was $210,600, up 8.6% from a year ago.
  • Previously-owned home sales in the West were down 1.6% to a 1.22 million annual rate but are still 5.2% above a year ago. The median price in the West was up 8.0% from the previous March to $347,500.

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