As expected, Existing Home Sales fell in February, slipping 30,000 units versus January’s numbers. It’s the 4th straight month in which Existing Home Sales were lower, month-over-month.
An “existing” home is one that is previously owned and lived-in (i.e. not new construction).
Existing Home Sales peaked in November 2009, just as the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit was set to expire. Immediately thereafter, according to the National Association of Realtors®, monthly sales plunged 17 percent in December, then another 7 percent in January.
Comparatively, February’s dip is a modest 0.6 percent and is more in line with the pre-tax-credit Existing Home Sales trend. The real estate market is rediscovering its normal.
But “normal” may not last for long.
When the federal home buyer’s tax program was extended last year, the new rules stated that home buyers must be under contract for their new, respective homes on, or before, April 30, 2010 in order to claim up to $8,000 in federal money. That deadline is approaching and many markets are experiencing a surge in buyer traffic as April 30 nears.
The Existing Home Sales data doesn’t reflect this new demand, nor the number of new contracts written. It only accounts for home closings and, in February, closings were down.
For today’s buyers, the market looks favorable. The federal tax credit is in place, mortgage rates stubbornly stick near all-time lows, and home prices are staying in check.
Existing Home Sales should gain through March and April, pressuring home prices higher. And, by the time the press reports the gains, the best deals in the city may already be gone. Consider acting sooner rather than later.