Existing-Home Sales Up 8.8 Percent From A Year Ago
Existing-home sales slipped 0.9 percent in February from January but were 8.8 percent higher than the same month in 2011, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.
February sales, while lower than January, were at the second-highest level in 21 months, economists said. Nationally, the median home price was $156,600, up 0.3 percent from February 2011, the Realtors' group said. The national prices were up from a 10-year low, economists said.
Economists Patrick Newport and Michelle Valverde of IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., said the recent increase in sales was only "slightly encouraging, since it has mainly been coming from investors, not from those wanting to live in a home they own."
That widely shared view of the housing market probably led Realtors' chief economist Lawrence Yun to say Wednesday that "there will be rising demand for both rental space and homeownership this year."
The Realtors' numbers show that one-third of sales in February were all-cash, a sign that investors -- accounting for 23 percent of the total monthly sales -- are heavily involved in the existing-home market.
In addition, foreclosures and short sales selling at deep discounts accounted for 34 percent of February sales nationally, keeping any year-over-year median price gains small.