Real Estate

Prospective buyers attend an open house at a home for sale in Larchmont, New York, US, on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023. 
Tiffany Hagler-Geard | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Sales of previously owned homes fell 3.4% in April from March to a seasonally adjusted, annualized pace of 4.28 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales were 23.2% lower than April of 2022.

There is still strong demand, but several factors are weighing on potential homebuyers. That is leading to different local and regional dynamics.

“Home sales are bouncing back and forth but remain above recent cyclical lows,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “The combination of job gains, limited inventory and fluctuating mortgage rates over the last several months have created an environment of push-pull housing demand.”

There were 1.04 million homes for sale at the end of April, an increase of 1% compared with April of last year. At the current sales pace, that represents a 2.9-month supply. A six-month supply is considered a balanced market between buyer and seller.

The median price of an existing home sold in April was $388,800, down 1.7% from the previous April. That, however, is a median and is likely reflecting that there is more sales activity on the lower, more affordable end of the market.

“Roughly half of the country is experiencing price gains,” Yun noted. “Even in markets with lower prices, primarily the expensive West region, multiple-offer situations have returned in the spring buying season following the calmer winter market. Distressed and forced property sales are virtually nonexistent.”

While sales were lower at all price points compared with April 2022, they were down most sharply for homes priced above $500,000. That is likely due more to affordability than supply, as there are more homes available for sale on the higher end of the market.

In Las Vegas last Saturday, a previously very hot housing market, the price differential was clear. One home just listed at $395,000 saw steady foot traffic from prospective buyers. The agent said he had received an offer by Monday for full price. At another home, just listed at $510,000, no one showed up.

“Under $350,000 and $400,000, there’s multiple offers,” said Noah Herrera, the agent for the lower-priced home. “You’ll see eight or nine people just trying to get into the house to buy the actual house. Over $500,000, it slows down a little bit.”

The market is also becoming increasingly competitive. Properties sold after an average 22 days in April, down from 29 days in March, but up from 17 days the year before. Nearly three quarters of homes were on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers, who historically make up about 40% of home sales, made up just 29% in April. That share hasn’t changed much over the past year, and is unlikely to, given continued high prices.

“The real estate market is a glass half-full, half-empty story for first-time home buyers. A drop in market competitiveness opens the door a bit wider, but the hurdles to entry are still quite high for first-timers who don’t have existing home equity to leverage for a down payment,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor. com.

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