February proved to be a month in which Americans were eager to enter the housing market, as a considerable number of previously owned homes were snapped up by prospective homeowners during the month.
According to the National Association of Realtors, nearly 5 million existing-home sales were completed last month on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, which is more than 10 percent ahead of how many were done at the same time last year. In fact, the number of people who bought single-family, townhomes, condos and co-ops, has been north of year-ago levels for 20 straight months.
Home values have proven to be strong as well, as February made it 12 consecutive months in which prices were up year-over-year. At an average listing price of $173,600, values were nearly 12 percent higher than where they were in the same period in 2012. The considerable rise in value is the largest yearly price rise since 2006.
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR, indicated that rising home values and affordable mortgage rates have been complemented by a steadily improving unemployment rate.
"Job growth in the improving economy and pent-up demand are causing both home sales and rental leasing to rise," said Yun. "Though home prices are rising much faster than rents, historically low mortgage rates are still making home purchases affordable."
Regional sales solid
Once homes were listed as for sale, it wasn't long before they were purchased. NAR notes that the median time in which all homes were on the market was just 74 days. At this time last year, the median time was 97 days - a difference of 24 percent. First-time buyers - which housing experts say are crucial in order to sustain the market's strong pace - represented approximately one-third of all purchases, which were essentially unchanged from 12 months ago.
Buyers weren't particularly picky about where in the country they lived. NAR reveals that existing-home sales were strong in many different regions. Previously owned homes were ahead this past February compared to 12 months ago in the West, East, South and Midwest, with sales particularly robust in the South - rising 15 percent above 2012 levels.
No matter where homes were purchased, though, they were likely inspected prior to signing papers. Polling data from NAR shows that close to 80 percent of buyers have a home inspection done before they make their first payment.