The National Association of Realtors said that existing home sales rose last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.72 million million units, up 5.1% from a rate of 4.49 million in January. February sales were down nearly 5% from year ago levels. ...NAR's press release very happily boasts about the 5% jump in month-over-month sales, but conveniently doesn't disclose the month-over-month decline in prices. By tracking down last month's press release, I can tell you that median prices were down 2.9% month-over-month. As I've said before: drop prices, sell houses.
The report said first-time buyers made up half of all purchases in February, and that sales of distressed properties accounted for about 45% of all transactions.
Sales were unexpectedly strong in the West, with activity increasing more than 30% over last year.
"February wasn't too shabby for the existing-home market," said Mike Larson, real estate analyst at Weiss Research. "The catch? The increase in sales activity is coming at the expense of pricing."
The national median existing-home price was $165,400 in February, down 15.5% from last year, when the median price was $195,800.
BusinessWeek gives its take on the sales data:
The monthly increase might be little more than statistical noise. It might be that the slightly warmer-than-usual February brought out some more buyers, said Patrick Newport, U.S. Economist for HIS Global Insight. But the formula used to adjust data for seasonal buying patterns tends to exaggerate monthly irregularities, he said.Wondering what a $165,000 house looks like? Here are a few examples.