A report released by the National Association of Realtors on Monday showed existing home sales in the U.S. increased by much more than expected in the month of March.
NAR said existing home sales climbed by 1.1 percent to an annual rate of 5.60 million in March after surging up by 3.0 percent to a rate of 5.54 million in February. Economists had expected existing home sales to edge up by 0.2 percent.
Existing home sales rose for the second consecutive month but are still down by 1.2 percent compared to the same month a year ago.
“Robust gains last month in the Northeast and Midwest – a reversal from the weather-impacted declines seen in February – helped overall sales activity rise to its strongest pace since last November at 5.72 million,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.
He added, “The unwelcoming news is that while the healthy economy is generating sustained interest in buying a home this spring, sales are lagging year ago levels because supply is woefully low and home prices keep climbing above what some would-be buyers can afford.”
The report said the median existing home price for all housing types was $250,400 in March, up 5.8 percent year-over-year.
Total housing inventory at the end of March climbed 5.7 percent to 1.67 million existing homes available for sale but is still 7.2 percent lower than a year ago. The unsold inventory represents 3.6 months of supply at the current sales pace.
NAR said single-family home sales rose by 0.6 percent to an annual rate of 4.99 million in March, while existing condominium and co-op sales spiked by 5.2 percent to a rate of 610,000.
On Tuesday, the Commerce Department is scheduled to release a separate report on new home sales in the month of March. New home sales are expected to jump by 1.9 percent.