Sales of existing homes skyrocketed a whopping 11.8 percent in February compared with January, according to the National Association of Realtors. That is the largest monthly jump ever, with the exception of a change in mortgage policy in 2015 that temporarily skewed the data.
Realtors pointed squarely to dropping mortgage rates and home prices for the increase in demand.
“Consumers are very sensitive to mortgage rates, at least that’s what we are finding out. So as mortgage rate began to drop, there was evidently a strong pent-up demand,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors.
At the start of last year, housing demand was robust and rates relatively low, with the average rate on the popular 30-year fixed right around 4 percent, according to Mortgage News Daily. That caused a frenzy in buying through the spring. But with supply remaining tight, prices overheated.
By summer, those prices were moving out of reach, especially as interest rates began rising. By November, the average rate on the 30-year fixed had spiked over 5 percent, and home sales plummeted.
Mortgage rates then began falling in December and moved decidedly lower in January to around 4.5 percent, causing the renewed interest in buyer demand. More consumers now believe it is a good time to buy a home and more believe the economy is improving, according to a sentiment survey by the Realtors in the first quarter of this year.