Rising Sales in Most States, and Rising Prices in Many Metros (at Last!)
by NAR Research Staff
There was good news for most states in the 4th quarter of 2009. Existing-home sales rose from the 3rd to 4th quarter in 48 states and the District of Columbia. In fact, 32 states experienced double-digit quarterly gains. On a year-over-year basis, resales were higher in 49 states and the District, with all but three posting double-digit annual increases.
According to the latest quarterly statistics released by NAR Research, total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, jumped 13.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.03 million in the fourth quarter – up from 5.29 million in the third quarter. Existing-home sales rose 27.2 percent from their 4th quarter 2008 pace of 4.74 million units. As a further sign of housing market stability, distressed properties accounted for 32 percent of fourth quarter transactions; that is down from
37 percent a year earlier.
Metropolitan Area Home Prices
There was some good news on the home price front as well. In the fourth quarter, 67 out of 151 metropolitan statistical areas boasted higher median existing single-family home prices compared with prices registered in the fourth quarter of 2008. In the third quarter only 30 MSAs showed annual price increases. Sixteen metros experienced double-digit increases. On a national basis, the news was not quite as good. The national median existing single-family home price was $172,900, 4.1 percent below the price registered in the fourth quarter of 2008. But on the positive front, that was the smallest price decline in over two years. It should be noted that the most recent monthly price data showed a broad stabilization in home prices.
In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices – covering changes in 54 metro areas – showed the national median existing-condo price was $177,300 in the fourth quarter, down 4.8 percent from the fourth quarter of 2008. Eleven metros showed increases in the median condo price from a year earlier. In the third quarter only four metros experienced annual price gains.
All four regions of the country saw rising home sales. Existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 11.1 percent from the 3rd quarter to 1.03 million units; Northeast resales were 33.6 percent higher than a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast declined 5.6 percent to $234,900 in the fourth quarter from the same quarter in 2008, but with widely varying conditions. Markets with lower median prices that have avoided wide swings, such as Buffalo, are generally showing consistent price gains. And even some of the higher cost areas such as Nassau-Suffolk (NY) and Boston (MA) are exhibiting signs of stabilization.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 14.5 percent (on a quarter to quarter basis) to a pace of 1.38 million units and were 29.9 percent above a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the region rose 1.1 percent from a year ago to $141,100. In fact, the Midwest accounted for the majority of metro areas experiencing double-digit price gains.
Existing-home sales in the South increased 13.8 percent from the 3rd to the 4th quarter of 2009 to an annual rate of 2.23 million units; resales in the region were 28.2 percent higher than in the fourth quarter of 2008. The median existing single-family home price in the South was $153,000 in the fourth quarter, down 2.4 percent from a year earlier.
The West experienced a 16.2 percent increase in existing-home sales, posting an annual rate of 1.38 million units. On a year-over-year basis, resales in the region were up 18.2 percent. The median existing single-family home price in the West did decline 8.9 percent from a year ago (to $227,200), but many metros showed price gains.
Behind the Numbers
What’s driving the rising home sales and stabilizing prices? The dominant factor is the home buyer tax credit. Buyers are responding to the program, and that – combined with record low mortgage interest rates – are attracting purchasers to the market.
One cautionary issue down the road will face buyers. They will need to accelerate their buying plans if they want to qualify for the tax credit. While repeat buyers do not have to sell their existing home, all buyers must occupy the property they purchase as a primary residence in order to qualify for the tax credit. Buyers who have a contract in place by April 30, 2010, have until June 30, 2010, to finalize the transaction to get a credit of up to $8,000 for first-time buyers and $6,500 for repeat buyers.
Near-term market conditions will remain favorable. While interest rates are expected to trend up later this year, affordability continues at healthy levels. In general, housing market conditions are good – home prices are steadying and inventory, while drawing down, continues to be plentiful offering potential buyers a variety of options.
For the latest statistics on existing-home sales by state and median home prices by metropolitan area, visit
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