Interest Rate Roundup

Monday, March 23, 2009

Existing home sales rise 5.1% in February

February existing home sales figures were released earlier today. Here's what the numbers showed:

* Existing home sales rose 5.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.72 million units from 4.49 million in January. That was better than the forecast for a reading of 4.45 million. Single-family sales climbed 4.4%, while condo and cooperative sales spiked 11.4%. We saw gains in all four regions of the country.

* The raw number of homes for sale rose 5.2% to 3.798 million units from 3.611 million in January. That was down from 5.5% from 4.018 million a year earlier, however. The months supply at current sales pace indicator of inventory was unchanged at 9.7 months, with single family inventory ticking down slightly (to 9.1 from 9.2) and condo inventory rising (to 14.7 from 13.4).

* The median price of an existing home inched up to $165,400 from $164,800 in January. That was down 15.5% from $195,800 in the year-ago period. That leaves existing home prices right around the lowest level since September 2002 ($165,300) -- see the chart above.

February wasn't too shabby for the existing home market. Sales ticked up and inventory remained relatively stable, with strength showing up in all regions of the country. The catch? The increase in sales activity is coming at the expense of pricing.

After revisions, the median price of an existing home has now roundtripped all the way back to September 2002 levels. We have a lot of upside down homeowners in this country, and their ranks are swelling every day. We'll have to see if recent government efforts to modify more loans and expand the ranks of those who can refinance will encourage homeowners to stick things out, rather than walk away, mail their keys to the lender, and rent elsewhere.


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