An upturn in sales marked the start of the spring buying season. RE/MAX reported that home sales increased by double-digits in March from February in all but one of the 54 U.S. metropolitan areas it covers (New York). This represents a complete reversal from January, when none of the 54 cities saw even single-digit monthly sales increases.
The National Association of Realtors corroborated RE/MAX’s bullish report with one of its own. The NAR’s data show that March was a decent month for existing home sales, with sales up 3.7 percent to an annualized rate of 5.1 million units. More homes were on the market, 3.55 million, but the solid rise in sales dropped the supply to 8.4 months.
The beleaguered homebuilders can see an improved selling market as we head into the late spring/early summer months. Housing starts in March rebounded 7.2 percent following a monthly 18.5-percent drop in February. The March annualized pace of 549,000 units came in significantly higher than analysts’ estimate for 510,000 units. The improvement was led by a monthly 7.7 percent boost in single-family starts. More encouraging, housing permits gained 11.2 percent after decreasing 5.2 percent in February.
Over the past six months, the monthly housing data have shown improvements, or at least stabilization, in pricing and sales. Of course, real estate is seasonal and year-over-year comparisons are usually the focus. On that front, the data are generally lower. However, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison. This time last year, we were still operating in a more subsided market, thanks to the federal tax credits, so it’s really meaningless to compare the normalized market of today to the tax-credit-supported market of yesterday.