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Lawler: Early look at Existing Home Sales in April

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From housing economist Tom Lawler:

Based on realtor association/board/MLS reports across the country, I estimate that existing home sales as measured by the National Association of Realtors will come in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.70 million in April, up 2.4% from March’s pace, but down 5.8% from last April’s pace. This modest rebound is not just weather-related – e.g., home sales in California, while down from a year ago, showed a larger-than-the-seasonal norm increase from March to April. Many areas hard hit by weather, in contrast, didn’t see much of a bounce in sales, reflecting very weak contract activity during the past few months.

I also estimate that the NAR’s median existing home sales price estimate for April will be up 6.7% from last April’s MSP. The YOY increase in March was 7.4%.

On the inventory front, publicly-available realtor/MLS reports combined with data from various listings trackers would suggest that existing homes for sale in April were up about 6% from March. However, as I have noted in the past, NAR data has consistently shown larger March-to-April inventory increases than publicly-available reports would suggest. I’m not sure why, but it may be related to the timing of “pull-dates” for the official “NAR Reports” that various realtor groups/MLS send directly to the NAR. As a reminder, here is what I wrote last May ahead of the April existing home sales report.

“On the inventory side, all entities tracking residential listings show a decent-sized increase in national listings from March to April, and local realtor reports suggest a gain as well – probably in the range of about 4%. However, for many years the NAR’s reported inventory gain in April has substantially exceeded that suggested by those who track residential listings, for reasons not readily apparent but that may reflect the timing of “pull-dates” by MLS in the NAR’s sample. Adjusting for this “observation,” my “best guess” is that the NAR’s existing home inventory number in April will be up 8.8% from March, and down 16.0% from last April.” (LEHC, May 15, 2013).

Current NAR estimates show a monthly jump in the inventory of existing homes for sales from March 2013 to April 2013 of 11.4%.

Realtor/MLS reports as well as “listing-tracker” reports indicate that the monthly increase in listings this April was in aggregate larger than last April, and a “reasonable guesttimate” would be that the NAR’s inventory number for April would be about 2.26 million, up 13.6% from March and up 5.1% from last April.

CR Note: The NAR will report April existing home sales next Thursday, May 22nd. The consensus forecast is for the NAR to report sales of 4.67 million SAAR.
Calculated Risk

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