From staff and wire reports WASHINGTON " Sales of new homes edged up in April to the second-highest post-recession level, as pent-up demand, low interest rates and tight inventories of older homes lifted demand. New Hampshire saw the most home sales for the month since 2006.
New-home sales reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 454,000, up 2.3 percent from an upwardly revised level of 444,000 in March, the Commerce Department said Thursday.
Economists polled by MarketWatch expected an improvement to 430,000 from an initially reported 417,000. April's gain represents a 29 percent improvement from the same period of 2012.
In New Hampshire, the number of residential sales in the state hit 1,073, marking a 9 percent increase from April last year and the most of any April since 2006, according to data released this week by the New Hampshire Association of Realtors. It was the 17th consecutive month of year-over-year increases.
The median price of those sales also jumped, up 8 percent from last April to $206,000, the highest median price for the month since 2010. April's sales volume " the total dollars exchanged in residential home sales " was $260.8 million, up 11 percent from last year and the marked the largest April volume since 2007.
Year to date through the first four months of 2013, unit sales are 9 percent ahead of last year, while median price is up 5 percent and sales volume is ahead by 9 percent, the Realtors group reported.
"We never want to pretend we've got a crystal ball, but this trend continues to have the earmarks of early recovery," said 2013 NHAR President Bill Weidacher, a 30-year veteran of the real estate industry and a managing broker at Keller Williams Metropolitan Realty in Bedford, in a press release. "Slowly, steadily and consistently, we've seen activity increase for a year and a half, and now the slow and steady price increases seem to be following suit."
Local NH Reporting
Condominium activity in New Hampshire is trending at an even greater rate than residential sales this year. Unit sales of condominiums are up 12 percent through the first four months of 2013 compared to the same period last year, while median price has seen a 9 percent increase and sales volume a 20 percent jump, according to the report.
Locally, eight of the 10 New Hampshire counties saw residential unit sales increases in April, the only exceptions being Carroll and Coos counties. Median price also increased in eight of 10 counties, with only Cheshire and Sullivan counties witnessing price declines. Pent-up demand is one factor behind the improving sales of new homes nationally. 'Household formation actually ramped up for the last year or two after some pretty substantial declines,' Pulte-Group Chief Financial Officer Bob O'Shaughnessy said earlier this week. In addition to population growth, household formation can grow when people move out of shared homes with family or housemates to their own properties. Tight inventories also are playing a role, as builders have been slow to put up new homes after the bursting of the housing bubble, and as owners of existing homes have largely kept their properties off the market. At the end of April, there were about 156,000 new homes for sale, the Commerce Department estimates, representing about four months of supply at current sales rates. While the inventory is up about 8 percent from year-earlier levels, it's down a third from January 2010 levels. That's pushing up prices. Median prices jumped 15 percent year-on-year to $271,600, a record level. New-home price growth is running faster than the broader housing market; the Federal Housing Finance Agency separately said Thursday that sales of homes bought or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac were up 6.7 percent in the first quarter compared to the same period of 2012. 'Based on what we're seeing right now in late May, I think you can expect us to continue to raise price, and business is and will be good,' Toll Brothers CEO Doug Yearley told investors on Wednesday after reporting the company's earnings. Meanwhile, mortgage rates " though up for three straight weeks " are at near record lows. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.59 percent for the week ending May 23, Freddie Mac reported. Mortgage rates may be impacted if, as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested Wednesday, the U.S. central bank slows or curtails its purchases of mortgage-backed securities. Marketwatch contributed to this report. Credit Friday Manchester Union Leader and Marketwatch contributed to this report.
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