×

US existing home sales rise more than expected in March

  • U.S. sales of existing homes increased 1.1 percent on a monthly basis in March.
  • The second consecutive month of growth suggests that buyers are undeterred by the dwindling number of properties available on the market.

U.S. sales of existing homes increased 1.1 percent on a monthly basis in March, which suggests that buyers are undeterred by the dwindling number of properties available on the market.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that homes sold last month at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.60 million, up from 5.54 million in February. This sales rate is higher than the 2017 total, but March sales were down slightly over the past 12 months.

The housing market continues to be in the grip of an inventory crunch that has restricted sales and growth in home ownership. Even as the overall economy has improved, there has been a 7.2 percent decline in listing from a year ago to just 1.67 million homes.

A Sotheby's International Realty sign stands outside of a townhouse for sale in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A Sotheby's International Realty sign stands outside of a townhouse for sale in Washington, D.C.

There has been an improvement in new listings in a sign that the decline could bottom out this year. But rising mortgage rates are also making it less likely that homeowners will choose to sell in order to buy another property.

Homes stayed on the market for 30 days in March, down from 34 days a year ago in a sign that the lack of inventory is prompting buyers to sign contracts quickly.

The shortage is also causing prices to grow at roughly double the pace of wages. The median sales price has risen 5.8 percent from a year ago to $250,400.

Home sales rose last month in the Northeast and Midwest, but they fell in the South and West.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage had climbed to 4.47 percent last week. That is the highest average since January 2014, something that could dissuade people from listing their homes for sale because it would also mean that they would have to pay a higher mortgage rate for any replacement homes they bought.