By Tim McLaughlin, Sr. Vice President, Weichert Financial
Positive news continues to dominate the housing sector. The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that the national median closing price for an existing single family house was $176,600 in the first quarter, up 11.3% from the first quarter of 2012. That was the largest year over year gain since the end of 2005. Of the 150 metro areas tracked by the NAR, sale prices rose in 133 and declined in 17.
“The supply/demand balance is clearly tilted toward sellers in a good portion of the country,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.
The NAR’s quarterly report is a good measure of general price trends, but the results can sometimes overstate the magnitude of price gains because they don’t control for shifts in the number of homes sold in various price categories. As a result, the median price can rise sharply if sales of higher end homes increase faster than sales of lower priced homes.
A companion study showed that despite the rise in prices, homes remain relatively affordable and low mortgage interest rates have given home buyers “ample buying power” in the current market, NAR said.
Foreclosure activity in April fell to its lowest level in approximately six years, showing signs that a housing recovery is in full effect, according to a monthly report from RealtyTrac.
During April, foreclosure filings were reported on 144,790 U.S. properties, which is a 74 month low. The latest figures are down 5% from the previous month and a 23% decrease on an annual basis.
Scheduled judicial foreclosure auctions increased 22% from March to April and were up 31% from a year ago, which is the highest level since October 2010. These numbers show that lenders are serious about moving forward with completing the foreclosure process, either through repossession or sale to a third party investor at public auction. This, in turn, will free up the backlog of inventory and create improved liquidity and availability in the marketplace.
For example, 15 of 26 judicial states had more scheduled auctions in April, including Maryland (up 199%), New Jersey (91%), Ohio (73%), Oklahoma (57%) and Florida (55%).