NAR: U.S. existing-home sales surge 11.8% in Feb.

WASHINGTON – March 22, 2019 – Existing-home sales rebounded strongly in February, with the largest month-over-month gain since December 2015, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Three of the four major U.S. regions saw sales gains, while the Northeast remained unchanged from last month.

“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.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $249,500, up 3.6 percent from February 2018 ($240,800). February’s price increase marks the 84th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of February increased to 1.63 million, up from 1.59 million existing homes available for sale in January, a 3.2 percent increase from 1.58 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 3.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.9 months in January but up from 3.4 months in February 2018.

“It is very welcoming to see more inventory showing up in the market,” says Yun. “Consumer foot traffic consequently is rising as measured by the opening rate of SentriLock key boxes.”

Properties remained on the market for an average 44 days in February, down from 49 days in January but up from 37 days a year ago. Forty-one percent of homes sold in February were on the market for less than a month.

Yun, who has called for more inventory over the course of 2018, says the market would benefit greatly in 2019 with additional new housing.

“For sustained growth, significant construction of moderately priced-homes is still needed. More construction will help boost local economies and more home sales will help lessen wealth inequality as more households can enjoy in housing wealth gains,” Yun says. A 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 Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 4.37 percent in February from 4.46 percent in January. The average commitment rate across all of 2018 was 4.54 percent.