Sales of previously owned US homes rose 4.4% in March from the prior month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million, the highest pace in more than a decade, the National Association of Realtors said Friday.
Sales rose 4.4% at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million, topping the previous ten-year high set in January.
With supply still tight, the median house price rose 6.8 percent from one year ago to $236,400 in March, the 61st consecutive month of year-on-year price increases.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales also increased significantly by 9.2% to an annual rate of 1.31 million and are now 3.1% higher than past year.
"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.
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.
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It is down 6.6 percent on a year-on-year basis and accounting for just 3.8 months' worth of supply at the current sales pace.
"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.
Properties were on the market for an average 34 days in March. But the housing market, broadly, still is tipped in favor of sellers.
The consensus estimate called for sales to reach 5.605 million, according to a survey of economists polled by Bloomberg.
"A strong annual increase in existing home prices suggests that lower-priced, entry-level homes of the kind likely to be sought by first-time buyers are increasingly scarce", she added.
The average sale price for a house in the region, an 18-county area covered by the listing service, was $150,142 in March, up 10.2 percent from a year before. This was the fastest sales rate since February 2007.
"We had a housing shortage past year and in the early parts of 2017 the housing shortage has intensified", NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said. "Over the past year home sales under $100,000 fell 7.1 percent while sales between $500,000 and $750,000 went up by 32.1 percent, due to builders' focus on the higher-end market". Wealthier investors, who were willing to pay in cash, made up an above-average share of the market and held a competitive advantage over first-time buyers, the NAR said.