TAAR reports highest March figures in at least six years
TRAVERSE CITY — Mother Nature helped boost home sales in the Grand Traverse region.
She didn't close any deals, but March's unseasonably warm weather bolstered existing home sales in the five-county region by almost 28 percent compared to February. The 180 homes sold in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, Antrim and Kalkaska counties represented the best March numbers in at least six years, and bettered last year's total by more than 10 percent.
"Anecdotally, the agents out there said the weather did make a difference," said Kim Pontius, executive vice president of the Traverse Area Association of Realtors. "The really nice weather got people out and moving around."
Local sales outpaced the national trend where existing home sales were down in March but continue to outpace year-ago levels, according to data from the National Association of Realtors. Total existing-home sales declined 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.48 million in March from an upwardly revised 4.60 million in February. But, they are 5.2 percent above the 4.26 million-unit pace in March 2011.
Pontius said TAAR members also report steady activity in April and expects another strong month when sales totals are compiled. First-quarter sales totaled 448 homes in the region, 14 percent above last year's first quarter.
"I'm hearing from some of my members that they're as busy as they've ever been," he said.
Home sale prices, however, continued to lag as foreclosures and other short sales eat away at housing prices. There was some improvement in March. The median sales price of $138,250 represented a 17 percent increase from February's median sale price.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $163,800 in March, up 2.5 percent from March 2011. Distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts — accounted for 29 percent of March sales, compared with 34 percent in February and 40 percent in March 2011.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Midwest were unchanged in March at a pace of 1.02 million but are 15.9 percent above March 2011. The median price in the Midwest was $132,800, up 5.2 percent from a year ago.
"The recovery is happening though not at a breakout pace, but we have seen nine consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases," said Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist. "Existing-home sales are moving up and down in a fairly narrow range that is well above the level of activity during the first half of last year."
Nationally, investors purchased 21 percent of homes in March, down from 23 percent in February and 22 percent in March 2011. First-time buyers accounted for 33 percent of transactions in March; they were 32 percent in February and 33 percent in March 2011.
Wire services contributed to this report.