Home Sales
Tony Dejak/AP

WASHINGTON -- Sales of existing U.S. homes slipped in March to their lowest level since July 2012 as rising prices and a tight supply of available homes discouraged many would-be buyers.

The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that sales edged down 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million. It was the seventh drop in the past eight months.

Sales rose in the Northeast and Midwest, suggesting that cold winter weather did not weigh as heavily on sales as in previous months. Freezing temperatures and snowstorms had contributed to lower sales in January and February.

"Sales appear to be stabilizing following earlier weather-related disruptions," Joseph LaVorgna, an economist at Deutsche Bank (DB), said in a note to clients. "We expect sales to improve as we enter the crux of the spring selling season."

LaVorgna noted that the Realtors' group reported more buyer traffic at open houses last month, suggesting that demand is rising.

Still, big price increases in the past year, along with higher mortgage rates, have made it harder for many Americans to afford a home. Pay increases haven't kept up with the higher buying costs.

Those trends and harsh weather have dragged down sales since last fall.

Sales fell last month in the West and South, where prices have risen the most in the past year. Price increases were smaller in the Northeast and Midwest.

Nationwide, the median sales price last month was $198,500, up 7.9 percent from 12 months ago.

The sharpest sales increase occurred among homes priced at $1 million or above. Purchases rose 8 percent in that category. Sales fell in nearly every other price group.

Other measures of home prices have shown stronger gains. Real estate data provider CoreLogic (CLGX) says prices rose 12.2 percent in the past year. That might be discouraging some potential investors, who accounted for just 17 percent of home sales in March, the lowest proportion since August. It was down from 21 percent in February.

But in a positive sign, first-time buyers made up 30 percent of home sales in March, the highest proportion in a year. That's still below the roughly 40 percent that's consistent with a healthy housing market. First-timers have struggled to save for down payments. They also face tight credit standards.

Sales of existing homes rose steadily in the first half of last year, reaching an annual pace of 5.38 million in July. But sales slowed in the fall as rising mortgage rates and higher prices began to squeeze some buyers out of the market.

About 5.1 million homes changed hands last year, the most in seven years. But that's still below the 5.5 million that reflect a healthy market. Many economists expect sales to rise modestly this year but to remain below the 5.5 million level.

Home prices are rising even as sales slow. That's a sign that the supply of available homes is tight, forcing potential buyers to make higher bids.

There were nearly 2 million homes for sale at the end of March. But at the current sales pace, that's enough to last only 5.2 months, below the 6 months' supply that's considered normal.

More construction is needed to boost the supply, the Realtors' group argues.

The average rate on a 30-year mortgage was 4.27 percent last week, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. That was down from 4.34 percent the previous week. But the rate is still about a full percentage point above last spring's record lows.

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April 23 2014 at 6:59 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Happy Earth Day! Mama says if Earth could speak it would tell republicans to go frack themselves!

April 22 2014 at 10:31 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bettybrocksbaby's comment

This destroyed economy is all yours.


April 23 2014 at 5:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

But the republicans can't support a minimum wage hike, cuz it will be a job killer....LMAO!

April 22 2014 at 7:44 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jojosdixoutcider's comment

Oh, but wait Obamacare was supposed to be a real job killer too.

April 22 2014 at 7:46 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

Housing is back to normal. No supply. People finally are bying and keeping the houses. The new construction is going up. In California, new construction is everywere. The economy is back to normal. including jobs. Obama policies are working for California.

April 22 2014 at 6:01 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Moreira's comment
Leroy Gd

another numb nut liberal. Big talk from a state that is 75 billion + in the red.

April 22 2014 at 6:29 PM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Leroy Gd's comment

CA has a budget surplus ho ho ho ha ha ha ha Jan~20~09~~>,record unemployment n record foreclosures ~~>JAN~20~14 record unemployment n record foreclosures ~~dont buy anything today cause you will just lose it to obamits record foreclosures like millions did already. !! more like foreclosure surplus. !!

April 22 2014 at 6:48 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down

Another brainwashed low information ditto head con steps up. Better go fix the skirting on your trailer.

April 22 2014 at 7:01 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down

And they will continue to tumble for no one has money for buying homes except the large companies buying foreclosed homes to rent.

Most Americans live in debt, one foot from the gutter

April 22 2014 at 4:50 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to weilunion's comment

Wrong... I live in a community of half mil properties. Values are appreciating and with very few exceptions, most homes sell before they actually hit the market. Primarily, they are being purchased by young families... not large companies, no foreclosures and no rentals.

April 22 2014 at 7:05 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Interest rates may be low but utility costs increase as well as property taxes and maintenance costs. Let alone if the neighborhood goes to hell you have to try and sell the place and recoupe and investment you've made. Rent may go up but you can always pull up stakes and move on if your neighbor is a pain. Plus you call the landlord to make repairs.

April 22 2014 at 3:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

the whole country has been tanking with the economy n housing markets collapsing since JAN~20~09 as we are all waiting for obumer n Hillary Benghazi" both to be removed from our white house in handcuffs n locked up in gitmo in 2014, so america can start recovering from all their damage n devastation they caused our nation. !!!

April 22 2014 at 3:20 PM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to texastotenmom's comment

Economic policy is the problem. This policy is not made by Obama it is made by his handlers --- the banksters and the one percent

April 22 2014 at 4:51 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to weilunion's comment

Obama is the cause. It is his minions in the Fed and banks that are causing the problem.

April 22 2014 at 5:37 PM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down

The economy will always ebb and flow. My parents were depression kids. They worked hard and planned even better. They never financed anything, including the 50K home purchased for the growing family in 1956. They put the kids thru college, survived several layoffs (Dad was an aerospace engineer) , the 80's recession and today, my Mom, at 92, continues to do her own budgeting, taxes and investments. She has an annual income of close to $100,000. What they did right was to get an appropriate education, work hard, save from day one, spend prudently and plan, plan, plan, a concept that seems to escape todays population that blames everyone and everything but themselves for their financial woes.

April 22 2014 at 7:17 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

keep the rates low and home prices reasonable, not like the overpriced crap i was looking at for 400k 5 yrs ago before the crash..do we ever learn

April 22 2014 at 3:06 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

In any event OMG

April 22 2014 at 3:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We need to clean up, the old or tear them down to make room for the new . One side of town is falling apart while the other is building way to expensive ones for most buyers . The law of supply and demand .

April 22 2014 at 2:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply