For March, 2013

Existing home sales touch three-year high


Home resales hit a 3 year high in February and prices jumped, adding to signs of an acceleration in the housing market recovery, even though the supply of properties on the market increased.

The National Association of Realtors said  existing home sales increased 0.8% to an annual rate of 4.98 million units last month, the highest level since November 2009. The January sales pace was revised up a 4.94 million units from the previously reported 4.92 million units.

Homes took about 74 days to sell in February, according to the median estimate, down from 97 days from a year ago.

Last month, the inventory of unsold homes on the market increased 9.6% to 1.94 million. That represented a 4.7 months’ supply at February’s sales pace, up from 4.3 months in January, the first increase since April.

The median home sales price in February rose 11.6% from a year ago to $173,6000.

Distressed properties, foreclosures and short sales, which typically occur at deep discounts, accounted for a quarter of overall sales last month, up from 23% in January.

Investors bought 22% of homes in February, with first-time buyers accounting for 30% of the transactions.

US new home sales fall in February


The pace of new home sales in the United States slipped in February but remains much better than a year ago, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

Sales of new single-family houses slowed to an annual rate of 411,000, compared to a revised January rate of 431,000.

But February’s sales were still 12.3% up from February 2012, as the housing market has strengthened overall, thanks to pent-up demand and low interest rates.

Analysts say the market is being held back in part by tight supply. The supply of new homes on the market rose slightly in February but remained limited at 4.4 months’ worth, 152,000 units.

The median sales price was slightly firmer at $246,800, compared to a median price in February 2012 of $239,900.

US housing starts rise, permits at 4 1/2-year high


U.S. builders started more homes in February and permits for future construction rose at the fastest pace in 4 1/2 years.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that builders broke ground on houses and apartments last month at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 917,000. That’s up from 910,000 in January. And it’s the second-fastest pace since June 2008, behind December’s rate of 982,000.

Single-family home construction increased to an annual rate of 618,000, the most in 4 1/2 years. Apartment construction also ticked up, to 285,000.

The gains are likely to grow even faster in the coming months. Building permits, a sign of future construction, increased 4.6% to 946,000. That was also the most since June 2008, just a few months into the Great Recession.

Overall housing starts have risen 28% higher over the past 12 months. The starts jumped in the Northeast and Midwest, while they fell in the South and West. Permits rose in the South, West and Midwest, falling only in the Northeast.

The number of previously occupied homes for sale has fallen to its lowest level in 13 years.

The survey noted that the outlook for sales over the next six months rose to its highest level in more than six years.

Housing Foreclosures Start to ‘Flare-Up’ Again

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Banks are repossessing fewer homes, in fact the fewest since March of 2007, but in some states that may be about to change, according to a new report from RealtyTrac, an online foreclosure data and sale firm.

Bank repossessions, the foreclosure starts, which are the first stage of the process, jumped 10% in February from the previous month. This after falling for three consecutive months.

The jump in new foreclosures is not just in the formerly hardest hit states either. Foreclosure starts jumped 319% in Maryland from a year ago, 172% in Washington, 139% in New York, and 70% in New Jersey. All of these states have large backlogs of delinquent mortgages due to new state laws governing foreclosures and/or the fact that they require a judge in the process.

While price gains help recovery, if they happen too fast, they price would-be buyers and investors out of the market, which slows sales again. Price recovery has many believing that housing is suddenly not just back on its feet again, but surging ahead-much of the price recovery is based on lack of inventory of homes for sale, which in turn is due to foreclosure delays, which as we now see, can turn very quickly.

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