Existing-home sales surged last month, posting their largest month-over-month gain since December 2015, the National Association of REALTORS® reported Friday. Sales jumped 11.8 percent in February compared with the previous month, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.51 million. Three of the four major regions of the U.S. posted gains, while the Northeast remained unchanged.
“A powerful combination of lower mortgage rates, more inventory, rising income, and higher consumer confidence is driving the sales rebound,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. That said, existing-home sales are still down 1.8 percent compared with a year ago.
Here are some additional indicators from NAR’s latest existing-home sales report:
- Home prices: The median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $249,500, up 3.6 percent from a year ago. The typical homeowner accumulated an estimated $8,700 in housing equity over the past 12 months and $21,300 over the past 24 months, according to NAR.
- Inventories: Housing inventories rose to 1.63 million in February, a 3.2 percent uptick from a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 3.5-month supply at the current sales pace. “It is very welcoming to see more inventory showing up in the market,” says Yun. “Consumer foot traffic consequently is rising” and was “measurably higher in January and February compared to the second half of 2018,” he adds, based on data from SentriLock, which is owned by NAR.
- Days on the market: Forty-one percent of homes sold in February were on the market for less than a month. Properties remained on the market for an average of 44 days in February, up from 37 days a year ago.
- First-time buyers: New buyers accounted for 32 percent of existing-home sales in February, up from 29 percent a year ago.
- All-cash sales: All-cash transactions comprised 23 percent of sales in February, down from a year ago. Individual investors accounted for the largest portion of cash sales. They purchased 16 percent of homes in February, up slightly from 15 percent a year ago.
- Distressed sales: Foreclosures and short sales represented 4 percent of total sales in February, unchanged from a year ago. Last month, only 1 percent of sales were short sales.