Sales of existing-homes rose in March 2011 according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 3.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.10 million in March.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, expects the improving sales pattern to continue. “Existing-home sales have risen in six of the past eight months, so we’re clearly on a recovery path,” he said. “With rising jobs and excellent affordability conditions, we project moderate improvements into 2012, but not every month will show a gain—primarily because some buyers are finding it too difficult to obtain a mortgage. For those fortunate enough to qualify for financing, monthly mortgage payments as a percent of income have been at record lows.”
NAR’s housing affordability index shows the typical monthly mortgage principal and interest payment for the purchase of a median-priced existing home is only 13% of gross household income, the lowest since records began in 1970.
“Although home sales are coming back without a federal stimulus, sales would be notably stronger if mortgage lending would return to the normal, safe standards that were in place a decade ago—before the loose lending practices that created the unprecedented boom and bust cycle,” Yun explained.
“Given that FHA and VA government-backed loan programs turned a modest profit over to the U.S. Treasury last year, and have never required a taxpayer bailout, we believe low-downpayment loans should continue to be available for those consumers who have demonstrated financial responsibility and are willing to stay well within their budget. Raising the downpayment requirement would unnecessarily deny credit to many worthy middle-class families and veterans,” Yun said.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $159,600 in March, down 5.9% from March 2010. Distressed homes—typically sold at discounts in the vicinity of 20%—accounted for a 40% marketshare in March, up from 39% in February and 35% in March 2010.