Sales of previously-owned homes churned higher in March as sturdy demand for housing bolsters the market.
Existing-home sales ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million, a 4.4% monthly increase, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. That was the strongest selling pace since February 2007 and was 5.9% higher than a year ago.
Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had forecast a 5.63 million rate.
Tight inventory is still the biggest factor in the marketplace: supply was 6.6% lower compared to a year ago. There were 1.83 million homes for sale on the last day of the month, which represented 3.8 months of supply at March’s sales pace. Properties stayed on the market for only 34 days.
That nudged the national median sales price to $236,400 – a 6.8% gain compared to a year ago.
Regionally, sales surged 10.1% in the Northeast and 9.2% in the Midwest, and ticked up 3.4% in the South. In the West, sales fell by 1.6%.
Investors made up 15% of all purchases, little changed from a year ago. First-time home buyers also made little progress, accounting for 32% of the market.
NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun called the first quarter “a good beginning” to 2017 despite the ongoing headwinds of inventory and higher prices. Sales for the first three months of the year were 5% higher than in 2016.
Policy matters, not the strength of the economy, may dominate the second half of the year, Yun suggested. With only a year to go before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac run out of capital, many analysts are hoping Congress will address comprehensive housing finance reform.