Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Sales of existing homes dropped 2.7% in April from March to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 5.85 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors.
It was the third straight month of declines, the group said.
Sales were 33.9% higher than April 2020, but that comparison is an anomaly because the housing market and economy shut down at the start of the pandemic. Housing then rebounded strongly last summer. Sales were still 11% stronger than April 2019.
“I would say it is hot, that is the one word description even with the sales decline,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors. For every listing there are 5.1 offers. Half of the homes are being sold above list price.”
The supply of homes for sale at the end of April was down 20%. There were 1.16 million homes for sale, representing a 2.4-month supply at the current sales pace.
High demand and rock-bottom supply continued to push prices higher. The median price of an existing home sold in April was $341,600, an increase of 19.1% from April 2020. That is both the highest median price on record and the largest annual increase on record.
Much of that large increase in the median price is due to the mix of homes that are selling. There is far more activity on the higher end of the market, where supply is more plentiful, and very little activity on the low end, where the shortage is most severe.
As an example, sales of homes priced between $100,000 and $250,000 were unchanged from a year earlier. Sales of homes priced between $750,000 and $1 million rose 146%% from a year earlier, and sales of homes over $1 million jumped 212%.
Competition is also incredibly intense, with homes selling in just 17 days, the fastest the Realtors have ever recorded. The all-cash share of sales rose to 25% from 13% one year ago. Investors made up 17% of all transactions. First-time buyers made up 31% of purchases, a slight decline from a month earlier.
Mortgage rates in February and March, when these deals were signed, rose quickly and dramatically. The average rate on the 30-year fixed started February around 2.80% and ended March around 3.42%, according to Mortgage News Daily. That took purchasing power away from buyers, who were already contending with high prices.
Sales of newly built homes, which are measured by signed contracts, not closings, rose a strong 21% in March from February. Builders are benefitting from the shortage of existing homes for sale, but prices for new homes are also rising sharply.
Builders have not been increasing production enough to meet all the demand, as they are hampered by rising costs for land and material and an increasingly difficult labor shortage. The hope now is that with more vaccinations, and people feeling better about social interaction, more potential sellers will list their homes.
“Rising seller sentiment could mean some relief is ahead with perhaps even a greater-than-normal share of homeowners stepping into the market later this year,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist for realtor.com. “While it’s not enough to end the shortage of homes for sale, this wave of sellers will make a dent, giving homebuyers more options to choose from.”