Sales of existing homes increased 0.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million in February, according to a National Association of Realtors report released today. Although these newest numbers failed to meet analysts' expectations of a 5.01 million annual rate, February's rise follows a 0.4% increase in January and continues to point to a housing market recovery.
Median home prices hit $173,600, marking the 12th consecutive month of year-over-year price increases and the strongest gain since November 2005, when the number increased 12.9% over the previous year. The median time on market for existing homes was 74 days in February, three days more than in January but 23 days below February 2012's 97-day median.
Economists blaming lack of supply as one of housing's primary hindrances will find some relief in this latest report. Housing inventory rose 9.6% for February, putting total supply at approximately 4.7 months at the current sales pace.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun signaled general overall optimism in a statement today: "Job growth in the improving economy and pent-up demand are causing both home sales and rental leasing to rise. Though home prices are rising much faster than rents, historically low mortgage rates are still making home purchases affordable." Yun pointed to limited credit conditions and restricted housing inventory in some parts of the country as the main culprits slowing growth.
Northeast and Midwest existing home sales fell 3.1% and 1.7%, respectively, while the South and West both recorded 2.6% increases for February.