Existing-home sales rise to a 10-year high, but homebuying remains a 'strenuous task'

Existing-home sales rise to a 10-year high, but homebuying remains a 'strenuous task'


Home for saleAP

Existing-home sales jumped more than expected in March as inventories increased, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Sales rose 4.4% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million, topping the previous ten-year high set in January. Economists had forecast that sales in the most active part of the housing market rose 2.2% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.6 million in March, according to Bloomberg.

"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," said Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist. 

Recent gains in pending home sales, which lead existing-home sales by a few months, had signaled a rebound in existing sales.

Sales eased from a 10-year high in February as a limited supply of affordable houses kept prices high and strained some buyers' budgets, according to the NAR. Wealthier investors, who were willing to pay in cash, made up an above-average share of the market and held a competitive advantage over first-time buyers, the NAR said.

In March, the median existing-home price rose 6.8% year-on-year to $236,400. 

"A growing pool of all types of buyers is competing for the lackluster amount of existing homes on the market," Yun said. "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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