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NAR: March Existing Home Sales Slip 2.7%

Year-to-year, total U.S. home sales fell 4.5%. NAR’s chief economist says sharply rising mortgage rates and higher inflation is beginning to impact the market.

WASHINGTON – Existing-home sales decreased in March, marking two consecutive months of declines, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Month-over-month, sales in March waned in three of the four major U.S. regions while holding steady in the West. Sales were down across each region year-over-year.

Total existing-home sales completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, dipped 2.7% from February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million in March. Year-over-year, sales fell 4.5% (6.04 million in March 2021).

“The housing market is starting to feel the impact of sharply rising mortgage rates and higher inflation taking a hit on purchasing power,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Still, homes are selling rapidly, and home price gains remain in the double-digits.”

With mortgage rates expected to rise further, Yun predicts transactions to contract by 10% this year, for home prices to readjust, and for gains to grow around 5%.

Total housing inventory at the end of March totaled 950,000 units, up 11.8% from February and down 9.5% from one year ago (1.05 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 2.0-month supply at the present sales pace, up from 1.7 months in February and down from 2.1 months in March 2021.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $375,300, up 15.0% from March 2021 ($326,300), as prices rose in each region. This marks 121 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, the longest-running streak on record.

“Home prices have consistently moved upward as supply remains tight,” Yun said. “However, sellers should not expect the easy-profit gains and should look for multiple offers to fade as demand continues to subside.”

Properties typically remained on the market for 17 days in March, down from 18 days in February and 18 days in March 2021. Eighty-seven percent of homes sold in March 2022 were on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers were responsible for 30% of sales in March, up from 29% in February and down from 32% in March 2021. NAR’s 2021 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, released in late 2021, reported that the annual share of first-time buyers was 34%.

“It appears first-time homebuyers are still looking to lock in at current mortgage rates before they inevitably increase,” Yun said.

Individual investors or second-home buyers, who make up many cash sales, purchased 18% of homes in March, down from 19% in February but up from 15% in March 2021. All-cash sales accounted for 28% of transactions in March, up from both the 25% recorded in February and from 23% in March 2021.

“With rising mortgage rates, cash sales made up a larger fraction of transactions, climbing to the highest share since 2014,” Yun said.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – represented less than 1% of sales in March, equal to the percentage seen in both February 2022 and March 2021.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.17% in March, up from 3.76% in February. The average commitment rate across all of 2021 was 2.96%.

Realtor.com®’s Market Trends Report in March shows that the greatest year-over-year median list price growth occurred in Miami (+37.0%), Las Vegas (+35.2%), and Tampa (+32.0%). Austin posted the highest growth in the share of homes which had their prices reduced compared to last year (+2.9 percentage points), followed by Sacramento and Memphis (+2.3 percentage points).

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Single-family and condo/co-op sales

Single-family home sales decreased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.13 million in March, down 2.7% from 5.27 million in February and down 3.8% from one year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $382,000 in March, up 15.2% from March 2021.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 640,000 units in March, down 3.0% from 660,000 in February and down 9.9% from one year ago. The median existing condo price was $322,000 in March, an annual increase of 11.9%.

“Finding the right home in this market – from making an offer to eventually buying – is an intense process,” said NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith, a Realtor® from Plano, Texas, and a broker associate at Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate in Dallas. “The current state of housing is indeed one of the most competitive markets that I have witnessed, but with patience and the assistance of a trusted Realtor®, the outcome can be very rewarding.”  

Regional breakdown

Existing-home sales in the Northeast slid 2.9% in March, recording an annual rate of 670,000, an 11.8% fall from March 2021. The median price in the Northeast was $390,200, up 6.8% from one year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest declined 4.5% from the prior month to an annual rate of 1,270,000 in March, a 3.1% drop from March 2021. The median price in the Midwest was $271,000, a 10.4% jump from March 2021.

Existing-home sales in the South dipped 3.0% in March from the prior month, registering an annual rate of 2,620,000, a decrease of 3.0% from one year ago. The median price in the South was $339,000, a 21.2% surge from one year prior. For the seventh straight month, the South experienced the highest pace of price appreciation in comparison to the other three regions.

Existing-home sales in the West held steady compared to the previous month, posting an annual rate of 1,210,000 in March, down 4.7% from one year ago. The median price in the West was $519,900, up 5.4% from March 2021.

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