The National Association of Realtors today reported that existing-home sales increased in February. While the results ran counter to January's losses, the NAR said that the still "relatively soft" sales activity was due to layoffs nationwide and potential buyers waiting for advantageous stimulus package provisions to kick in.
February existing-home sales rose 5.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.72 million units, versus 4.49 million units in January -- a month-over-month improvement, but still lagging the 4.95 million units sold in the similar period one year prior. The measure includes single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.
The NAR's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, indicated that first-time buyers were responsible for half of the home sales in February. "Because entry level buyers are shopping for bargains," he said, "distressed sales accounted for 40 to 45 percent of transactions in February."
Yun also pointed to promising news in the West, where recovery is much stronger than the group expected.
"Strong sales gains in the West are led by California," he said, "where the median listing price is beginning to rise for the first time in three years." Specifically, existing-home sales in that region were up by 2.6 percent and remain 30.4 percent higher than a year ago.
Single-family home sales were up by 4.4 percent; condominium and co-op sales increased 11.4 percent.
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