February 2012 existing-home sales were down from January - which was an upwardly revised - but remain well above the pace of February 2011, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Total existing-home sales were down 0.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million in February 2012 from an upwardly revised 4.63 million in January 2012. February 2012 sales were 8.8% higher than the 4.22 million-unit level in February 2011.
Total existing-home sales are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops.
Underlying factors are much better than they were a year ago, according to Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "The market is trending up unevenly, with record high consumer buying power and sustained job gains giving buyers the confidence they need to get into the market," he said.
"The great suppression in household formation during the past four years was unsustainable, and a pent-up demand could burst forth from the improving economy," Yun said. He said he expects rising demand for both rental space and homeownership in 2012 - a "relatively unusually" circumstance.
Freddie Mac reported that the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 3.89% in February, down from 3.92% in January and down from 4.95% in February 2011. The February 2012 rate was the lowest since record-keeping began in 1971.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $156,600 in February 2012, up 0.3% from February 2011. Distressed homes - foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts - accounted for 34% of February sales (20% foreclosures/14% short sales), down from 35% in January and 39% in February 2011.
Total housing inventory at the end of February rose 4.3% to 2.43 million existing homes available for sale - a 6.4-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 6.0-month supply in January. Unsold inventory has trended down from a record 4.04 million in July 2007 and is 19.3% below a year ago.
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