WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) -- Limited inventories held back U.S. home sales in March, a trade group in Washington said Monday.
The National Association of Realtors, which tracks sales of existing homes, said in March that existing home sales had grown to the point that the market recovery could be called "healthy." This month, it might be said it is "too healthy," as sales fell 0.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million in March from a downwardly revised February estimate of 4.95 million. Sales for the month, however, were 10.3 percent higher than March 2012, when the seasonally adjusted pace was 4.46 million.
"Buyer traffic is 25 percent above a year ago when we were already seeing notable gains in shopping activity. In the same time frame housing inventories have trended much lower, which is continuing to pressure home prices," said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.
"The good news is home construction is rising and low mortgage rates are continuing to keep affordability conditions at historically favorable levels. The bad news is that underwriting standards remain excessively tight, while renters are getting squeezed by higher rents," Yun said.
The median sales price for existing homes rose on an annual basis for the 13th consecutive month -- the longest streak since June 2005 to May 2006, the association said.
The median price of $184,300 is 11.8 percent higher than March 2012, the trade group said.
The total inventory of existing homes on the market rose 1.6 percent from February to 1.93 million, a 4.7-month supply at the current rate of sales.
From February, existing home sales were unchanged in the Northeast and up 1.8 percent in the Midwest. In the South, existing home sales dropped 1.5 percent from February. In the West, sales fell 1.7 percent month to month.