U.S. existing-home sales soar 5.1% in March, as housing demand remains strong

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Home resales rebounded strongly in March, signalling sturdy demand in the housing market even as the recovery remains choppy.

Sales rose 5.1% to a 5.33 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. That was higher than the 5.3 million rate forecast by economists surveyed by MarketWatch.

That pace was up only 1.5% compared to a year ago, but the average for the first three months of the year, which NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun called “bouncy,” was 4.8% higher compared to the same period in 2015.

All four geographic regions saw gains in March, ranging from 11.1% in the Northeast to 1.8% in the West.

Strong sales are still bumping up against lean inventory. The months’ supply eased slightly, to 4.5 months, but that’s still well below the long-term average of 6 months, which normally signals a healthy market. Homes stayed on the market for only 47 days, down from 52 days a year ago.

That robust demand continues to boost prices. The median price rose 5.7% compared to a year ago, to $222,700. That growth rate is more than double the average wage gains, Yun pointed out.

Surging prices are keeping a lid on first-time buyers. Their share of overall sales was 30%, unchanged both for the month and compared to a year ago.

The impact of new mortgage regulations known as “Know Before You Owe,” or TRID, seems to be dissipating, Yun said. The new requirements are now adding about three or four days to closing times.

Read this article in its original format at MarketWatch.com

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