Existing home sales fall


Sales of previously owned homes fell in February to their lowest level in nearly two years as severe winter weather weighed on the market, a new report showed on Thursday. 

Total sales of existing-home sales, which are completed transactions, declined 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.60 million in February, from 4.62 million in January, the lowest showing since July 2012, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Thursday.

“We had ongoing unusual weather disruptions across much of the country last month, with the continuing frictions of constrained inventory, restrictive mortgage lending standards and housing affordability less favorable than a year ago," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

The housing market is expected to pick up pace this spring. 

“Some transactions are simply being delayed, so there should be some improvement in the months ahead. With an expected pickup in job creation, home sales should trend up modestly over the course of the year."

The median existing-home price in February was $189,000, which is 9.1 percent above February 2013.

“Price gains have translated into an additional $4 trillion of housing wealth recovery over the past three years,” Yun said.

Distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 16 percent of February sales, compared with 15 percent in January and 25 percent in February 2013.

Total housing inventory at the end of February rose 6.4 percent to 2 million available for sale, which represents a 5.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.9 months in January.

Although prices have jumped in the past year, mortgage rates are holding near historic lows at around 4.3 percent in February, down from the 4.43 average in January, according to Freddie Mac.

First-time buyers accounted for 28 percent of purchases in February, up from 26 percent in January but down from 30 percent in February 2013.

Single-family home sales fell slightly to 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.04 million in February from 4.05 million in January.

Regionally, existing-home sales fell in two of four regions: 11.3 percent in the Northeast and 3.8 percent in the Midwest.

Meanwhile, there was a 1.5 percent increase in the South and a 5.9 percent uptick in the West.