Existing home sales in March were strong, reaching their highest pace in a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Sales reached an annual rate of 5.71 million in March, a 4.4% increase over February's revised rate of 5.47 million. The last time home sales were higher was in February 2007, when the rate reached 5.79 million.
Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, is encouraged by March's pace and cautiously anticipates a strong selling season in the months ahead.
"The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month," Yun said in a press release. "Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain. Sales will go up as long as inventory does."
The only region where home sales decreased was the West. Sales were 1.6% lower than in February. However, Western metro areas also experienced the shortest average time on the market before a sale. In California, homes in the areas of San Jose, San Francisco and Vallejo stayed on the market for 24, 25 and 31 days, respectively. Homes in Seattle and Denver stayed on the market for an average of 28 days. The national average was 34 days on the market, down significantly from 45 days in February.
Sales in the Northeast climbed 10.1% to an annual rate of 760,000. In the South, sales increased 3.4% to an annual rate of 2.42 million.
Sales in the Midwest increased 9.2% to an annual rate of 1.31 million. One Midwestern region to experience exceptional increases was the Chicagoland area, which spans nine counties. Sales increased 13.1% to total 8,540, according to Illinois Realtors. But even though more homebuyers are successfully finding and purchasing homes, Illinois Realtors President Doug Carpenter warned that homebuyers need to act fast to close on a home.
"Consumers this spring have no choice but to be nimble as they find fewer homes on the market and increased competition for those homes," Carpenter said in a statement. "Many of the realtors I talk to are reporting an increase in multiple offer situations, which means buyers can't dawdle when they find what they want and they may want to make sure any offer they bring is an aggressive one."
Prospective homebuyers hoping to get a head start on the home search might consider getting pre-approved for a residential mortgage. This is one way to make a positive impression on home sellers.
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