From the WSJ:
A broad measure of home sales fell again in February, the latest sign of severe weather and worsening affordability undermining the housing recovery.
Sales of previously owned homes fell 0.4% in February from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.6 million, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. That matched a forecast by economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires and was the sixth decline in sales in the past seven months.
“Existing-home sales remain in a rut,” said BNP Paribas economist Laura Rosner.
Sales have been on the decline since hitting an annual rate of 5.38 million in July, a four-year high. Rising mortgage rates and soaring home prices have sidelined many prospective buyers, while cold and stormy weather has dissuaded others from going house-hunting in recent months.
Existing-home sales, which account for more than 90% of all home purchases in the U.S., fell in the Northeast and Midwest but rose in the South and West.
The National Association of Realtors said the median home price in February was $189,000, up 9.1% from a year earlier, in part because supply constraints are driving up prices.
The trade group said two million homes were available for sale last month, which represents a supply of about 5.2 months. It estimates a supply of 6 to 6½ months represents a rough balance between buyers and sellers.
“Affordability is continuing to weaken,” said Lawrence Yun, the trade group’s chief economist, though he added sales activity should pick up after winter ends. “Some transactions are simply being delayed, so there should be some improvement in the months ahead,” Mr. Yun said.