Last week we reported some market stability locally and some decent appreciation in the residential market that is the combined cities of Coeur d'Alene and Dalton Gardens. Other markets across the nation are also experiencing positive real estate movement, but certainly not all. As we have opined here before, it will be a long slow climb out of the housing recession. In fact, those markets showing improvement represent about half of the markets surveyed by the National Association of Realtors, yet it does indicate the market may be beginning to stabilize.
Nationally, the U.S. median single-family existing-home price dipped 0.4 percent from a year ago in the first quarter, to $158,100. Real estate owned (REO) and short-sale properties, accounted for 32 percent of first quarter sales, down from 38 percent a year ago.
"Home prices lag sales activity because the transactions were negotiated mostly in the previous quarter," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "Given the steadily dwindling supply of inventory and notably higher listing prices that are being negotiated today, prices are expected to show further improvements in the near future."
First quarter, for-sale inventory at the end of March stood at 2.37 million existing homes. This is down 21.8 percent year over year. Inventories have been declining since a record 4.04 million in the summer of 2007, NAR said.
"We now have broad shortages of lower-priced homes in much of the country, with very tight supply in Western states for homes through the middle price ranges. This is good news for many sellers who wish to list now, or for those waiting for prices to improve," Yun said.
Total sales of existing single-family homes and condominiums in the U.S. rose 5.3 percent on an annual basis in the first quarter to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million.
"This is the highest first-quarter sales pace since 2007. With strong market fundamentals, total home sales this year should rise 7 to 10 percent," Yun said.
Regionally, sales rose the most in the Midwest, 11.7 percent year over year, to 1.02 million. The region posted a slight annual increase in median sale price, 0.8 percent, to $125,300.
In the Northeast, sales increased 6.6 percent to 590,000. The region's median sales price dropped 3.2 percent from a year ago to $226,300.
The South saw a 4.1 percent jump in sales, to 1.76 million, and 1.2 percent rise in median price, to $143,600.
The West saw the smallest sales increase, 1.4 percent, to 1.2 million. Median price in the region fell slightly, 0.9 percent, to $196,200. Our median price in Coeur d'Alene and Dalton at the end of March was $150,000 reflecting a 4 percent increase over first quarter 2011.
First-time buyers accounted for a third of sales nationwide in the first quarter, a slight year-over-year increase. Cash buyers, mostly investors, made up 32 percent of sales last quarter, while investors made up 22 percent.
Of 146 metro areas, 74 saw median sales prices increase year over year in the first quarter, compared to only 29 in the fourth quarter. Of the 20 metro areas to see the highest year-over-year jumps in sales prices in the first quarter, five were in Florida. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., saw the biggest price jump, 28.1 percent, to $117,600.
As we continue to remind you, we may already be past the bottom of the market in our area, yet with interest rates still historically low, even a slight increase in prices makes housing affordable to a lot more people.
Trust an expert... call a Realtor. Call your Realtor or visit www.cdarealtors.com to search properties on the Multiple Listing Service or to find a Realtor member who will represent your best interests.