NAR – Home prices are on the rise

Washington, May 11, 2010

A growing number of metropolitan areas are experiencing price gains from a year ago, while most states have seen healthy gains in home sales from the first quarter of 2009, according to the latest survey by the National Association of Realtors®.

In the first quarter, 91 out of 152 metropolitan statistical areas1 showed higher median existing single-family home prices in comparison with the first quarter of 2009, including 29 with double-digit increases; three were unchanged and 58 metros had price declines. In the fourth quarter 67 areas reported gains and 123 were down, while only 30 MSAs in third quarter of 2009 showed annual price increases.

The national median existing single-family price was fairly flat at $166,100, down 0.7 percent from the first quarter 2009 price of $167,300. The median is where half sold for more and half sold for less. Distressed homes, which typically are discounted by 15 percent relative to traditional homes, accounted for 36 percent of first quarter sales.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said stabilizing home prices are encouraging. “This flattening in home prices is something we’ve been seeing in all of the home price measures lately, and quite clearly in this metro area price report,” he said. “The tax credit has been very effective in drawing down excess inventory, with about one million additional sales resulting directly from the stimulus.”

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate2 of 5.14 million in the first quarter, down 14.0 percent from a surge of 5.97 million in the fourth quarter, which was driven by the initial tax credit. However, first quarter sales remain 11.4 percent above the 4.61 million-unit level in the first quarter of 2009. “Year-ago comparisons are more meaningful in this report due to sales swings from the tax credit,” Yun said.

Sales increased from a year ago in 44 states and the District of Columbia; 31 states and D.C. saw double-digit gains while two were unchanged and four were down.

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz., said there’s been a change in market psychology. “Buyer confidence is back, and home buyers have long-term views. The typical buyer plans to stay in their home for 10 years, so we’ve put the flipping mentality behind us and most people see housing for what it is – shelter that provides social benefits and is also a good long-term investment,” Golder said.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage was 5.00 percent in the first quarter, up slightly from a record low 4.92 percent in the fourth quarter; it was 5.06 percent in the first quarter of 2009.

Golder said even with some recent easing of mortgage credit, separate surveys3 show the housing market continues to be constrained by mortgage issues. “One-third of NAR members report the most important factor limiting potential clients has been difficulty in obtaining a mortgage,” she said.

“In addition, 11 percent of Realtors® in the first quarter report a contract was cancelled because an appraisal came in less than the price negotiated between a buyer and seller, and another 16 percent report a contract had to be renegotiated because of a low appraisal,” Golder said. “As a result, the housing recovery isn’t as strong as it could be. We are discussing these and other concerns with government and industry leaders at a real estate summit currently under way here in Washington.” The three-day summit began today at the Realtors® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo.

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