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April Existing-Home Sales Just Shy of Record

May 26, 2004

WASHINGTON – Sales of existing single-family homes rose for the third consecutive month and were at the second-highest pace on record, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales increased 2.5 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate* of 6.64 million units from a level of 6.48 million units in March. Last month's sales activity was 15.1 percent above the 5.77-million unit pace in April 2003 and was just 0.6 percent shy of the all-time high of 6.68 million posted in September of last year.

David Lereah, NAR's chief economist, said a strong month was expected. "Given the favorable economic backdrop and strong sales momentum, a big number was expected for April home sales and it's likely we'll see another big month in May," he said. "Part of what we're seeing now is 'fence-jumping' from people wanting to buy a home before interest rates move higher. Even with an additional rise in recent weeks, the good news is that mortgage interest rates now appear to be leveling-out in the 6.3 percent range."

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 5.83 percent in April, up from 5.45 percent in March; the rate was 5.81 percent in April 2003.

NAR President Walt McDonald, broker-owner of Walt McDonald Real Estate in Riverside, Calif., said interest rates remain historically low. "It appears that we've already experienced most of the anticipated rise in mortgage interest rates and they'll probably increase only modestly in the second half of the year," he said. "Although the pace of home sales should be slower in the second half, total sales in 2004 will be close to last year's record. Americans still see housing as a good investment."

The national median existing-home price was $176,000 in April, up 7.3 percent from April 2003 when the median price was $164,100. The median is a typical market price where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

Housing inventory levels at the end of April rose 9.4 percent from March to 2.57 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 4.4 percent to an annual rate of 1.41 million units in April, and were 11.0 percent above the same month a year earlier. The median price in the Midwest was $143,200, up 5.3 percent from April 2003.

Home resale activity in the South increased 3.5 percent in April to an annual rate of 2.67 million units, and was 16.6 percent above April 2003. The median price of an existing home in the South was $162,900, which was 7.0 percent higher than a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 1.4 percent in April to a pace of 730,000 units, and were 12.3 percent above a year ago. The median existing-home price in the Northeast was $214,100, up 19.3 percent from April 2003.

In the West, the existing-home sales pace rose 0.5 percent from March to an annual rate of 1.84 million units in April, and was up 17.9 percent from April 2003. The median existing-home price in the West was $257,300, up 11.5 percent from the same month a year earlier.

Source: The National Association of Realtors

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