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HIGHEST LEVEL IN THREE YEARS SHOWS HOME SALES REBOUND

 HIGHEST LEVEL IN THREE YEARS SHOWS HOME SALES REBOUND
 WASHINGTON, April 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Sales of previously owned


homes in March climbed to the highest level in three years, indicating a strong housing demand that is expected to be sustained this year as the economic recovery continues, according to the National Association of Realtors.
 The association recorded an actual sales total of 298,000 existing single-family homes nationwide in March, 12.5 percent above the March 1991 total of 265,000 units. So far each month in 1992 has shown increases from a year ago. The year-to-date total of existing- home sales through March was 712,000 units, up 13.2 percent from the year-to-date total of 629,000 units for the same period last year.
 NAR President Dorcas T. Helfant said the budding home sales activity signifies that both the housing market and the economy are getting back into shape. "The economy is finally moving clearly toward recovery, and we're feeling it not just in housing but other areas as well. Consumer confidence appears to be on the rebound, new construction is blossoming -- in economic terms, we're finally seeing signs of spring," she said.
 Additionally, Helfant predicts that one of the sustaining bright spots for this year will be interest rates, despite the recent uptick.
 The Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. reported that the national average commitment rate for 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgages rose from 8.76 percent in February to 8.91 percent in March, but have since declined.
 "Good affordability conditions -- interest rates in the single digits and relatively stable home prices -- are continuing to make homeownership affordable to consumers in a broad income range. Also, interest rates are expected to stay low, which should stimulate prospective buyers to take action now, rather than risk further increases," Helfant said.
 The national median existing-home price for March was $104,000, rising 5.4 percent from one year earlier.
 Year-to-year resale increases were recorded in all the regions last month. Such factors as renewed confidence about the economy and mild weather conditions in most areas of the country brought more buyers into the market in March, noted NAR Chief Economist John A. Tucillo. "The housing market has turned around. Housing starts and existing-home sales activity in March are good, solid signs of recovery, and proof that the housing industry is leading the nation's economy out of recession," he said.
 "The Northeast's performance is especially encouraging, and good affordability conditions should keep sales on their current track in this region," Tuccillo added.
 On a regional basis, the Northeast recorded the largest increase in existing single-family home sales in march. Resales there totaled 40,000 units, climbing 17.6 percent from the total of 34,000 units for March 1991. The median existing-home price in the Northeast was $145,500 in March, up 2.5 percent from $142,000 one year earlier.
 In the West, the resale total was 66,000 units in March, jumping 15.8 percent from 57,000 units one year earlier. The median price in the West was $143,200, down 2.0 percent from $146,100 in March 1991. Tuccillo noted that while first-time buyers appear to be more active at present, good affordability conditions should bring more trade-up buyers into the Western market.
 In the Midwest, resales totaled 85,000 units last month, rising 10.4 percent from 77,000 units in March 1992. The median price in the Midwest was $81,000 in March, up 3.6 percent from $78,200 a year ago.
 The South posted a resale total of 107,000 units in March, which rose 10.3 percent from one year earlier, when sales totaled 97,000 units. The region's median price was $92,300, up 6.0 percent from $87,100 a year ago. "At the current rate, this could be the best year for home sales in the South since 1979," said Tucillo.
 There were 2.72 million existing single-family homes available for sale nationwide in March, representing a 9.4 month supply.
 Currently, NAR is predicting existing-home sales to total 3.45 million units this year, rising 7.2 percent from 1991, and reaching the highest level since 1988.
 The National Association of Realtors, "The Voice for Real Estate," is the nation's largest trade association, representing more than 750,000 members involved in all aspects of the real estate industry.
 -0- 4/27/92
 /CONTACT: Walter Molony, 202-383-1177, Cheryl Spector, 202-383-1289, or Lois Clinton, 202-383-1016, all of the National Association of Realtors/ CO: National Association of Realtors ST: District of Columbia IN: SU: ECO


TW -- DC005 -- 2942 04/27/92 08:46 EDT
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Date:Apr 27, 1992
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