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St. Louis Existing Home Sales Rate down 8.6 percent in February; prices up 8.2 percent

Dennis NormanToday’s existing home sales report from the National Association of REALTORS® shows mixed signals for the St. Louis Real Estate market as our rate of existing home sales is down 8.6 percent from a year ago, significantly higher than the 2.8 decline for home sales nationwide, however, on a positive note, St. Louis home prices were up 8.2 percent in February from a year ago, the highest increase of the 20 major metro markets covered by the report and much better than the 5.2 percent DECREASE in home prices for the U.S. as a whole!

Highlights from the NAR report on US existing home sales-

The median home price in the U.S. in February was $156,100, a decrease of 1.1 percent from January’s revised median price of $157,900 and a decrease of 5.2 percent from a year ago when the median price was $164,600.

Number of homes for sale increases after five-consecutive monthly declines….

The number of existing homes on the market increased in February by 3.5 percent to 3.488 million homes, but is down 1.2 percent from a year ago when there were 3.531 million homes for sale. Based upon the current rate of sales the supply that this inventory translates into increased by 14.7 percent to 8.6 months from 7.5 months in January and is 2.4 percent higher than a year ago when the supply was 8.4 months.

Metro Home Sales and Prices –

NAR publishes existing home sales for major metropolitan areas of the U.S. Highlights from that report for February include:

  • Five metro areas saw an increase in sales from a year ago with Miami-Ft. Lauderdale leading the way again this month with a whopping 46.4 percent increase in sales.
    • Baltimore, MD again this month had the second largest year-over-year sales increase at 17.0 percent, followed by Phoenix, AZ at 8.4.
  • Dallas-Fort Worth, TX had the largest decrease in sales from a year ago again this month, with a 14.5 percent decrease.
    • Indianapolis, IN had the second highest decrease in sales from a year ago with a 12.0 percent decrease, closely followed by Boston with a 10.9 percent decrease.
  • Fourteen of the metros also saw year-over-year declines in home prices in February.
    • St. Louis, MO, (my hometown!) saw the largest one-year increase in home prices this month with an 8.2 percent increase, followed by San Diego, CA at 5.2 percent and Dallas-Fort Worth, TX at 5.1 percent.
    • Miami-Ft Lauderdale, FL saw the biggest one-year decrease in home prices again this month, with a decline of 18.6 percent, followed by Atlanta, GA with a 13.6 percent decline and Minneapolis-St. Paul with a 10.4 percent decline.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, expects an uneven recovery. “Housing affordability conditions have been at record levels and the economy has been improving, but home sales are being constrained by the twin problems of unnecessarily tight credit, and a measurable level of contract cancellations from some appraisals not supporting prices negotiated between buyers and sellers,” he said. “This tug and pull is causing a gradual but uneven recovery. Existing-home sales remain 26.4 percent above the cyclical low last July.”all-cash purchases, along with rising investor activity.”

I don’t like “seasonally adjusted rates of sales”:

If you have been reading my posts for a while you know by now I don’t like “seasonally adjusted” numbers when artificial stimuli, such as tax-credits, can cause an unseasonal spike in sales activity. I much prefer to see the actual numbers and try to garner from them what is going on in the housing market.

The following are the ACTUAL Existing Home sales reported by NAR without any adjustment or fluff:

  • There were 293,000 existing homes sold in February which is an increase of 2.8 percent from the month before and a 1.2 percent decrease from a year ago.
  • Below are highlights from each region for February:
    • Northeast – 48,000 homes sold, an increase of 17.1 percent from the prior month a decrease of 7.7 percent from the year before.
    • Midwest – 61,000 homes sold, an increase of 8.9 percent from the prior month and a decrease of 9.0 percent from the year before.
    • South – 113,000 homes sold, an increase of 2.7 percent from the prior month and an increase of 0.9 percent from the year before.
    • West – 71,000 homes sold, a decrease of 9.0 percent from the prior month and an increase of 2.9 percent from the year before.

Other highlights of the NAR Report for February 2011:

  • Distressed sales accounted for 39 percent of all home sales for the month, up from 37 percent the month before.
  • First-Time homebuyers accounted for 34 percent of the home sales for the moth, up from 29 percent the month before.
  • Investors were the buyers of 19 percent of the homes for the month, down from from 23 percent the month before.
  • Repeat home buyers were responsible for approximately 47 percent of the month’s sales, down slightly from 48 percent the month before.
  • Cash buyers were a record 33 percent of all sales in February, up from 32 percent in January.

My Take On the Numbers:

I think this report is consistent with other reports on the housing market that support the idea that we are at the bottom of the market in most markets…..as I have said before, not a “smooth” bottom, and in fact a rocky bottom, but a bottom nonetheless. I think the other thing we continue to see is that the recovery (no we are NOT in a recovery yet in my opinion) will be a LONG, SLOW one…We are seeing sales bounce around and this month while the seasonally adjusted rate of sales is down, it is still higher than it was five months last year. “Actual” home sales were up slightly in February and only slightly down from a year ago, again supporting my “rocky bottom” theory.

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