Sales of previously-owned homes fell more sharply than expected in March as the usual housing headwinds stalked the market. The surge in February was the strongest in nearly four years, and the Realtor lobby group is attributing the March decline to a return to normalcy after that spike. Still, sales were 5.4% lower than a year ago.
The median price of a home sold in March was $259,400, a 3.8% increase versus a year ago. At the current pace of sales, it would take 3.9 months to exhaust available supply, still well below the long-time average of 6 months. Properties stayed on the market for an average of 36 days in March, down from 44 days in February but a bit longer than the 30 days averaged last year.
According to NAR’s measure of first-time buyers, they accounted for 33% of all transactions in March. But more recent comprehensive research – NAR’s is based on survey data – suggests first-time buyers currently make up about the same share of the market that they have for the past two decades.
Activity was mixed regionally, as always, but all regions saw a decline. In the Northeast, sales were down 2.9%, and in the South they fell 3.4%. In the West, which has suffered for several months, in large part because of the recent tax law changes, sales fell 6%. But the Midwest saw the biggest decline, of 7.9%.