Total existing home sales, completed transactions including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 4.4% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.71 million in March, according to NAR's report. But more newcomers to the housing market were in search of purchases: first-time homebuyers accounted for 32 percent of sales in March, which is unchanged from February and up by two percent a year ago.
NAR also said sales have now increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million units as of last month, the highest level the gauge has seen since February 2007.
March existing-home sales in the Northeast surged 10.1% year over year to an annual rate of 760,000, up 4.1% compared with March 2016.
"The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month", said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a press release. Listing shortages are an ongoing source of frustration for the housing industry, since sales might be higher if buyers weren't struggling to find available homes in desirable locations at palatable price points.
Existing-home sales in the South and West covered less ground in March, with sales in the South rising 3.4 percent to 2.42 million, with a median price of $210,600, and sales in the West falling 1.6 percent to 1.22 million, with a median price of $347,500.
Total housing inventory experienced a boost as well, with a 5.8 percentage point jump to 1.83 million homes for sale - a much-needed jump from the rock bottom levels experienced in the last few months.
Properties were on the market for an average 34 days in March.
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They forecast a rate of 5.65 million.
According to a recent realtor.com study, homes are flying off the market at a dizzying pace, selling eight days quicker this spring.
Buyers closed on purchases of 12,245 homes, at an average price of $163,382 - up 6.2 percent from the same month of a year ago. All told, 48 percent of homes sold in March were on the market for less than one month.
Compared to the same period of time in 2016, sales in March jumped almost 6 percent.
"A growing pool of all types of buyers is competing for the lackluster amount of existing homes on the market", Yun said, advocating for builders to pick up the pace of new construction. The median existing home price for all housing types in March came in at $236,400, up 6.8% from March 2016 when it was $221,400.
In the Midwest, home sales were up 3.1 percent from a year before.
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