First Quarter State Existing-home Sales In Record Territory

May 12, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Total existing-home sales, which include single-family and condos, were at the third-highest pace on record in the first quarter. In addition, 44 states and the District of Columbia showed higher sales in comparison with a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

NAR’s latest report on total existing-home sales shows that nationwide the seasonally adjusted annual rate* was 6.84 million units in the first quarter, up 8.3 percent from a 6.32 million-unit level in the first quarter of 2004. The record was a pace of 6.90 million units in the second quarter of 2004, followed by 6.88 million in the fourth quarter of last year.

The strongest increase was in Alaska, where the first-quarter resale pace rose 21.4 percent compared with the first quarter of 2004. Wyoming existing-home sales rose 17.5 percent from a year earlier, while Oregon posted the third highest increase, up 17.3 percent. Thirteen other states also recorded double-digit sales gains from a year ago. Four states posted declines; complete data was not available for three states.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, attributes the market strength to historically low interest rates. “The movement in mortgage interest rates has been both up and down, and they’re not trending-up as steadily as expected earlier this year,” he said. “This is preserving favorable housing affordability conditions in most of the country, so when you consider the growing population and improvements in the job market, it’s no surprise that home sales are near record levels.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage was 5.76 percent in the first quarter, up marginally from 5.73 percent in the fourth quarter; it was 5.60 percent in the first quarter of 2004.

View State Resales Data --$FILE/REL05Q1S.pdf

NAR President Al Mansell, CEO of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Salt Lake City, said much attention is focused on first-time buyers. “Without such strong activity by entry level buyers, the market would be much slower,” he said. “The demand for starter homes is freeing owners to make a trade and is sustaining all sectors of the housing market, but the supply of affordable housing is very tight – making it important to preserve and expand housing opportunity programs such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the American Dream Downpayment Initiative.”

Regionally, the West reported the strongest annual increase – up 9.8 percent to 1.61 million units in comparison the first quarter of 2004. After Alaska, Wyoming and Oregon, the next highest increase in the region was in Hawaii, where total existing-home sales rose 14.7 percent compared with a year earlier; Utah sales activity rose 14.0 percent in the same time frame, while Washington increased 13.9 percent. Arizona and New Mexico also posted double-digit sales gains.

The South recorded an existing-home sales pace of 2.59 million units in the first quarter, up 8.9 percent from a year earlier. The strongest increase in the South was in Alabama, up 15.5 percent from the first quarter of 2004; Arkansas existing-home sales jumped 15.3 percent, while West Virginia rose 14.9 percent. Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina also posted double-digit sales increases.

In the Northeast, the first quarter existing-home sales rate of 1.12 million units rose 7.0 percent from the first quarter of 2004. Massachusetts experienced the strongest increase in the region with sales activity 9.9 percent above a year ago; Maine was up 6.9 percent while Pennsylvania existing-home sales increased 3.4 percent.

In the Midwest, total existing-home sales increased 6.3 percent to a 1.51 million-unit annual sales rate compared with the same period in 2004. North Dakota led the region, up 16.2 percent from the first quarter a year earlier. Nebraska ranked second, posting an 11.2 percent increase, followed by South Dakota, with a gain of 8.1 percent.

Soure: The National Association of Realtor

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