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U.S. home sales surge to decade high

Homes sold at the fastest pace in a decade in March, and also moved off the market at a much faster pace than a year ago.

Total existing sales were estimated at an annual rate of 5.71 million, up 4.4 percent over the February level and 5.9 percent over the pace a year earlier, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported. It was the strongest month since February 2007.

ExisthomeNotably, homes are also selling much faster. Typically properties sold in 34 days, which is down from 45 days in February and 47 days a year ago. The pace of sales has accelerated even as prices continue to rise robustly and inventories remain extremely tight.

“The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said. “Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain. Sales will go up as long as inventory does.”

In March, the annual median price of a home was $236,400, up 6.8 percent from March 2016. The overall housing inventory increased by 5.8 percent to 1.83 million existing homes for sale, but was still down by nearly 7 percent compared to a year ago, NAR said.

The unsold inventory was at a 3.8-months supply, which was unchanged from February. The annual pace of sales was up over last year in all regions; however, sales declined over the month in the West region, which has seen the fastest price gains.  

“Last month’s swift price gains and the remarkably short time a home was on the market are directly the result of the homebuilding industry’s struggle to meet the dire need for more new homes,” Yun said. “A growing pool of all types of buyers is competing for the lackluster amount of existing homes on the market. Until we see significant and sustained multi-month increases in housing starts, prices will continue to far outpace incomes and put pressure on those trying to buy.”


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