March home sales increased annually despite coronavirus

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Annual home sales rose in March for the fourth consecutive month, though the coronavirus inhibited what's typically the biggest monthly boost of the year, according to Remax.

Closed transactions increased 2.7% from March 2019 and 23.8% from February 2020. The growth into March from February is normally the largest monthly spike of the year, as the spring home-buying season heats up. The 23.8% increase was five percentage points below the February-to-March increase in 2019 and it's the lowest rate over those months in the last 12 years. Comparatively, the transition to spring from winter averaged a 30.1% increase in home sales from 2014 to 2019.

"As expected, the strong market of January and February continued into March, setting up a very good first quarter. But then the coronavirus and the initial mitigation measures arrived, disrupting our industry along with everything else," Adam Contos, Remax CEO, said in a press release.

Los Angeles led the year-over-year sales at a 15.6% increase, followed by 12.2% in Boise, Idaho, and 12.2% in Las Vegas.

The median home sales price increased to $265,000 in March, up 7.7% year-over-year and 2.9% month-over-month. Birmingham, Ala., had the greatest jump at 19.8%, followed by Cincinnati's 14.3% and 14.1% in Salt Lake City. Only Billings, Mont., saw an annual decline, with a 0.4% decrease.

"Conditions and restrictions vary throughout the country, so some areas continue to see new listings, pendings and closings, while other markets have slowed dramatically, especially where real estate was not deemed an essential service," Contos said. "It's a fluid situation. We believe that interest in buying or selling remains high, and pent up-demand in many places should drive sales higher over time. One takeaway that's already clear is that real estate agents, using technology and adhering to social distancing guidelines, can lead consumers through the buying or selling process in a largely virtual way."

March's inventory went to a 2.7-month supply, a 14.9% drop from March 2019 and a slight 1.1% rise from February. A supply of six months defines market equilibrium. The average days on market went to 54 days for March, down five days from both a year ago and February.

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Housing market Coronavirus Home prices Housing inventory Purchase Remax