Home sales down 8.5 percent in March, before worst effects of pandemic

U.S. home sales dropped in March even before the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic struck, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

CNBC reported Tuesday that NAR's seasonally adjusted index pointed to an 8.5 percent fall, with the drop-off largely occurring in the second half of the month. Many of those sales represent contracts closed earlier in the year, before the coronavirus outbreak caused local governments to shutter nonessential businesses and order Americans to stay at home.

NAR's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, told CNBC in an interview that home sales could drop by as much as 40 percent in the coming months.

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“We saw the stock market correction in late February,” Yun said. “The first half of March held on reasonably well, but it was the second half of March where we saw a measurable decline in sales activity.”

“Homes are still selling fast, we just don’t have enough inventory,” he added.

According to Yun, the amount of homes for sale dropped more than 10 percent from the same time last year.

A separate CNBC analysis found that both demand for home-buying and selling have dramatically dropped off amid the outbreak, due in part to many Americans being unable to tour new homes in person.