Existing-home sales increased 5.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.48 million units in March from an upwardly revised pace of 6.13 million units in February. Last month's sales activity was 12.7 percent above the 5.75-million unit level in March 2003; the record is 6.68 million in September 2003.
David Lereah, NAR's chief economist, said low interest rates get most of the credit for last months performance, but he noted interest rates are now rising modestly.
"The housing needs of a growing population timed nicely with historically low mortgage interest rates and a rebounding economy in March," Lereah said. "Although interest rates are rising modestly, an improving job market is creating a favorable backdrop for home sales, but at a somewhat slower pace in the months ahead."
The national median existing-home price was $174,100 in March, up 7.4 percent from March 2003 when the median price was $162,100. The median is a typical market price where half of the homes sell for more and half sell for less.
Housing inventory levels at the end of March rose 4.8 percent from February to a total of 2.39 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace.
Regionally, home resales in the West jumped 10.2 percent in March to an annual rate of 1.83 million units, and were 18.1 percent above a year ago. The median existing-home price in the West was $244,500, up 11.2 percent from March 2003.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 6.3 percent in March to an annual rate of 1.35 million units, and were 7.1 percent above March 2003. The median price in the Midwest was $140,200, up 2.0 percent from the same month a year earlier.
The existing-home sales pace in the South increased 3.6 percent in March to an annual rate of 2.58 million units, and was 12.2 percent above a year ago. The median price of an existing home in the South was $158,700, which was 5.1 percent higher than March 2003.
Existing-home sales in the Northeast were at an annual pace of 720,000 units in March, unchanged from February, but were 10.8 percent above March 2003. The median existing-home price in the Northeast was $213,000, up 20.3 percent from the same month a year earlier.
Existing-home sales, which are based on transaction closings, differ from the U.S. Census Bureaus series on new-home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit.