Washington, DC, May 10, 2011
Existing-home sales continued to recover in the first quarter with gains recorded in 49 states and the District of Columbia, while 22 percent of the available metropolitan areas saw prices rise from a year ago, according to the latest survey by the National Association of Realtors®.
Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, rose 8.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 5.14 million in the first quarter from 4.75 million in the fourth quarter, and are only 0.8 percent below a 5.18 million pace during the same period in 2010.
Also in the first quarter, the median existing single-family home price rose in 34 out of 153 metropolitan statistical areas2 (MSAs) from the first quarter of 2010, including four with double-digit increases; one was unchanged and 118 areas showed price declines.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said home prices are all over the map. “The reading of quarterly price data can be volatile because they are based on the types of homes that are sold during the quarter. When buyers principally purchase distressed properties in a given market, the recorded prices will be very low, which is what we’re seeing now in much of the country,” he said. “Annual price data provides a better guide about the direction of the market in those areas.”
The national median existing single-family home price was $158,700 in the first quarter, down 4.6 percent from $166,400 in the first quarter of 2010. The median is where half sold for more and half sold for less. Distressed homes,3 typically sold at a discount of about 20 percent, accounted for 39 percent of first quarter sales, up from 36 percent a year earlier.
To clarify, Yun said lower priced homes have seen the best sales performance. “The biggest sales increase has been in the lower price ranges, which are popular with investors and cash buyers,” he said. “The preponderance of sales activity at the lower end is bringing down the median price, so what we’re seeing is the result of a change in the composition of home sales.”