The National Association of Realtors reported a slight increase in home sales last month, but the growing (if misplaced) optimism about the nation's housing market drew even more sellers, pushing the inventory of unsold homes to a five month high.
Sales of existing single family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops rose 2.9 percent in April to an annual rate of 4.68 million units, following a downwardly revised rate of 4.55 million units in March. On a year-over-year basis, sales were 3.5 percent lower.
The median home price for all housing types, still heavily influenced by the predominance of sales at the low end, fell from $175,200 in March to $170,200 in April, representing a decline of 15.4 percent from a year ago.
Foreclosures and short-sales accounted for some 45 percent of all sales, down from more than half of all sales in March.
In an early sign that stabilization in the housing market will be much easier to accomplish than an actual rebound, housing inventory rose almost nine percent during April to 3.97 million, representing 10.2 months of supply, an indication that more sellers are listing their homes for sale as they see anticipate a rebound.
This is likely to continue for perhaps several years as waves of sellers enter the market after having held their properties back, awaiting better market conditions and, importantly, this includes bank owned properties where the new owners have been in no particular hurry to list repossessed homes for sale.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, commented on the rise:
The gain in inventory is largely seasonal from sellers entering the spring market. Even with the rise, inventory over the past few months has remained consistently lower in comparison with a year earlier.
You can never go wrong when making comparisons to conditions when the housing market was at its steepest rate of deterioration, just prior to precipitating the late-2008 implosion of global financial markets and life as we knew it.
Mr. Yun also made another plea for the government to start buying jumbo loans:
Most of the sales are taking place in lower price ranges and activity is beginning to pick up in the midprice ranges, but high-end home sales remain sluggish. The Federal Reserve needs to help restore liquidity for the jumbo mortgage market by buying these loans under the TALF program.
Why not? The Fed seems to be buying just about everything else these days.
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