Real Estate Market

Housing's upbeat swing into spring

(04/17/2012) Housing's spring swing looks more and more like it isn't just a fling.

On average nationwide, prices and sales are up, inventories are down and more and more markets reveal strength not seen in years.

Certainly, seasonal factors are in play, but compared to last year at this time, the housing market looks more like a recovering housing market, according to's Real Estate Trend Data for March.

• Prices - The nationwide median list price for single-family homes, condos, townhomes and co-ops (SFH/CTHCOPS) was $189,900 in March 2012, a 5.56 percent jump from a year ago.

Higher list prices prompt buyers to get off the fence before they are priced out of the market. Higher prices likewise encourage sellers to list if they've been waiting for a stronger market.

• Inventories — The national for-sale SFH/CTHCOPS inventory plunged 21.48 percent in March, compared to a year ago. A smaller supply helps push prices up.

• Sales - won't release March sales figures until later this month, but if February was any indication, March should be strong. For February, completed SFH/CTHCOPS transactions came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million, up 8.8 percent from a year ago.

While the national picture looks rosier than a year ago, some markets continue to struggle.

Conditions lag in hardest hit markets, including Las Vegas and many parts of California. The same is true for areas that didn't experience skyrocketing home prices - Chicago and Philadelphia.

Except for Washington D.C. metro area, most of markets with the highest median list price increases that also experienced the largest reductions in their for-sale inventories were among the hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. That bodes well for those locations.

Foreclosed properties remain a big chunk of sales, but the four markets with the largest year-over-year increase in median list prices - Phoenix, AZ; Miami, FL; Boise City, ID; and Punta Gorda, FL are recovery leaders.

"The market is trending up unevenly, with record high consumer buying power and sustained job gains giving buyers the confidence they need to get into the market," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.



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