For the first time this year, national existing home sales posted an increase in April, a new report issued by the National Association of Realtors shows.
More significantly, inventory of single-family homes, town homes, condominiums and co-ops jumped 16.8 percent for the same period, reaching a 5.9-month supply. The housing market is considered in equilibrium when there is a six-month supply of homes on the market.
Total existing home sales rose 1.3 percent in April from the previous month, but are still 6.8 percent below where they were at the same time last year. The inventory level was up from 5.1-month in March and was 6.5 percent higher than it was a year ago.
Improved inventory should propel the housing market forward this year, the NAR predicts, but not enough to affect annual home sales after a sluggish first quarter.
“We’ll continue to see a balancing act between housing inventory and price growth, which remains stronger than normal simply because there have not been enough sellers in many areas,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the association. “More inventory and increased new home construction will help foster healthy market conditions.”
The national median price for all housing types in April rose to $201,700, which is 5.2 percent above what it was last year at the same time.
“Current price data suggests a trend of slower growth, which bodes well for preserving affordability conditions in much of the country,” Yun said.
When looking at only single-family home data in the report, the picture is not quite as rosy. Sales for this segment of the market across the country rose 0.5 percent from March and were 7.7 percent below where they were last April. The median price of single-family homes rose 4.7 percent from April 2013, to $201,100.
Not all regions of the country showed the same levels of sales increases in April. The West had the largest increase in existing home sales, at 4.9 percent, as well as the highest growth in median sale price, 9.7 percent above where it was last April. In the South, existing-home sales were up 1.0 percent from March and median home prices rose 3.2 percent from last year.
Sales were unchanged in the Northeast from the previous month but slipped in the Midwest by 1.0 percent.
Other highlights from the report:
*Properties sold more quickly in April, with the median days on the market at 48, down from 55 in March.
*Forty-one percent of homes sold in April were on the market for less than a month.
*Foreclosures and short sales accounted for 15 percent of sales, down from 18 percent in March.
*Twenty-nine percent of all buyers were first-time homeowners.
*Thirty-two percent of sales were all cash.