Interest Rate Roundup

Thursday, April 23, 2009

March existing home sales slump 3%

March existing home sales figures were released this morning. Here's what the data showed:

* Existing home sales fell 3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million units from 4.71 million in February. That was slightly below the forecast for a reading of 4.65 million. Single-family sales dipped 2.8%, while condo and cooperative sales dropped 4.1%. Sales fell in three out of four regions (South -1.7%, West -4.2%, Northeast -8%), with only the Midwest showing an unchanged reading.

* The raw number of homes for sale fell 1.6% to 3.737 million units from 3.798 million in February. That was down 9.2% from 4.118 million a year earlier. The months supply at current sales pace indicator of inventory climbed to 9.8 from 9.7, with single family inventory rising to 9.3 from 9.1 and condo inventory holding steady at an extremely elevated 14.7.

* The median price of an existing home rose 4.2% to $175,200 from $168,200 in February. That was down 12.4% from $200,100 in the year-ago period.

Home sales continue to flop and chop around at relatively low levels. We're seeing increased activity in some of the hardest-hit markets where prices have plunged, but tamer activity elsewhere in the country. Distressed inventory is where it's at -- with bidding strong for deeply discounted foreclosed and short sales, but weaker for homes put on the market by traditional sellers.

As for housing inventory, it has clearly peaked in the new home market. There are tentative signs it COULD be peaking on the existing side of the ledger. But it's unclear how much of an impact temporary moratoriums on foreclosures have had there. Those stopgap measures are now expiring, which could lead to a fresh surge of foreclosed property hitting the market.

Add it all up and you have a housing market that is still struggling and still oversupplied, but that may have moved from the ICU to the long-term care wing of the hospital.


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