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Charlie Glahe WIN Broomfield

Existing home sales picked up in April; summer acceleration could follow

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Following a prolonged first-quarter slowdown, existing home sales picked up during April, offering signs that the market will be revitalized with the traditional buying season.

The National Association of Realtors' latest report revealed that existing home sales - completed transactions for single-family homes, condominiums and co-ops - increased 1.3 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted rate of 4.65 million. While that rate is down from the pace that was being set a year ago at this time, it still offers some promise to both buyers and sellers who may have been concerned with the lack of activity to start 2013.

Now that the harsh, extended winter that stifled home showings and consumer viability in much of the country has finally subsided, buyers may be in a position to take advantage of still-manageable interest rates. Sellers, meanwhile, can capitalize on the fact that the winter set back construction for many new homes, leaving inventory levels still tight while demand for the available supply remains strong.

Of course, in searching for an older home, buyers should be sure to take into account the structural integrity and condition of the property, requesting a thorough home inspection. Lawrence Yun, the NAR's chief economist, noted that inventory levels are improving, which should help ease affordability concerns, but it may be a couple of months before many of the newly constructed homes make a real impact on the market.

"We'll continue to see a balancing act between housing inventory and price growth, which remains stronger than normal simply because there have not been enough sellers in many areas," Yun said. "More inventory and increased now-home construction will help to foster healthy market conditions."

NAR's report also revealed that the median home price on all existing homes was 5.2 percent higher than in April 2013. Prospective buyers should not fret, though, as interest rates remain low by historical standards and should stay that way for the summer as the Federal Reserve continues to provide the economy with stimulus.