Repeat Buyers Buy, First-Timers Retreat

Existing-home sales rose in April with strong activity in lower price ranges, particularly from repeat buyers, according to data released today from the National Association of Realtors. First-timers, on the other hand, declined to 40% of market sales from 53% in March. Existing-home sales — including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – increased 2.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68m units in April from a pace of 4.55m units in March, but sat 3.5% below the 4.85m units sold in April 2008. Single-family home sales climbed 2.5% to a seasonally adjusted 4.18m in April from 4.08m in March, but are 2.8% below the 4.30m-unit pace last year at this time. Existing condominium and co-op sales jumped 6.4% to 500,000 units in April from 470,000 in March. Condo and co-op sales are 9.4% lower than than the year-ago pace. A NAR practitioner survey in April shows first-time buyers declined to 40% of transactions, implying more repeat buyers are entering the traditional spring home-buying season, NAR said in a press statement. The survey also shows the number of buyers looking at homes has increased 14%  from a year ago. Regionally, existing-home sales in the West rose 3.5% to an annual rate of 1.17m in April — a significant 19.4% higher than a year ago. Sales in the Northeast jumped 11.6% to 770,000, while sales in the South increased 1.8% and sales in the Midwest slipped 2%. The national median existing-home price for all housing types came in at $170,200 for the month, which is 15.4% below 2008. NAR says distressed properties, which accounted for 45% of all sales in April, continue to downwardly distort the median price. But because foreclosed properties will likely be released into the market over the course of 2009, it’s critical that distressed homes are quickly cleared from the market, says Lawrence Yunn, NAR chief economist. “Fortunately, home buyers are being attracted to deeply discounted prices and are bidding up many foreclosed listings…” Write to Kelly Curran.

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3d rendering of a row of luxury townhouses along a street

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