Sales of existing homes fell 2.6% in March, down to an annualized rate of 4.48 million compared to 4.60 million in February, the National Association of Realtors announced today.
Despite the decline from last month, March sales were still 5.2% higher than the 4.26 annualized rate seen during the same period in 2011.
Bloomberg said that economists in its survey had forecast a rise in home sales for the month, expecting a 4.61 million annualized sales pace.
NAR analysts said the home sales continued to recover, but “not at a breakout pace.” Existing home sales have risen year-over-year for nine consecutive months.
The inventory of homes currently for sale declined in March by 1.3%. With 2.37 million existing homes currently for sale, the NAR calculates that at the current sales rate, it would take 6.3 months to exhaust the inventory.
The current number of homes on the market is 21.8% lower than at the same time in 2011 and almost half the size of July 2007’s record of 4.04 homes for sale.
The national median price of home sales was $163,800 in March, a 2.5% increase from March 2011. Foreclosure and short sales comprised 29% of the month’s sales, down from 34% in February and 40% during the same period last year.
Single-family home fell 2.5% to an annual rate of 3.97 million in March, compared to a pace of 4.07 million in February. Still that was a 5.9% improvement from 2011.
Western states saw the hardest home sales decline in March, falling 7.4% from February, and 0.9% below March 2011 levels. Home sales in Northeastern and Southern states fell 1.7% and 1.1%, respectively during March, while sales in the Midwest remained unchanged compared to February.
Last month’s home sales beat same-time 2011 levels everywhere, except in western states.
With the inventory of homes for sale declining and prices edging upward, 2012 may still produce positive second-quarter results for the home market.