A sold sign sits outside a home.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Sales of previously owned homes in April fell to the lowest pace since the Covid pandemic started, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Existing home sales declined 2.4% compared with March to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 5.61 million units, the group said. Sales were 5.9% lower than in April 2021. That is the slowest rate since June 2020, which was artificially slow since the economy was struggling with sweeping shutdowns due to the coronavirus.
This count represents closings during the month, so it reflects contracts likely signed in February and March, when mortgage rates were rising. The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage started February at 3.66% and ended March at 4.78%, according to Mortgage News Daily. It is now hovering around 5.45%.
“We are moving back to pre-pandemic sales activity, but I expect further declines,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for NAR, citing that rates are now higher than they were when these contracts were signed.
Not only were buyers contending with rising rates, but they saw very little relief in the shortage of homes for sale. Inventory at the end of April stood at 1.03 million homes for sale, which is down 10.4% from April 2021. At the current sales pace that represents a 2.2-month supply.
Tight supply kept home prices higher, despite rising interest rates. The median price of an existing home sold in April was $391,200, the highest on record and an increase of 14.8% from a year ago.
That median is skewed higher because sales continue to be more robust on the higher end of the market, where the supply is stronger. Sales of homes priced between $100,000 and $250,000 fell 29% year over year, while sales of those priced between $500,000 and $750,000 rose 19%. Sales of homes priced over $1 million increased 16% compared with a year ago.
Sales continued to be swift with the average home sitting on the market just 17 days before going under contract. The all-cash sale remained high at 25% of all sales. Investors made up 17% of sales, and first-time buyers made up just 28%. Historically, first-time buyers generally make up about 40% of the market.
“The number of households interested in becoming homeowners remains high, despite waning confidence that now is a good time to buy. This is especially true among younger home shoppers, who are likely to be first-time buyers and are struggling to save for a down payment as rents continue to hit records” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “At the same time, seller expectations for higher down payments seem to be rising, fueled by a still-competitive housing market and repeat buyers with relatively more equity at their disposal.”
Sales of newly built homes for April will be reported next week, but mortgage applications for those homes dropped nearly 11% during the month compared with April 2021, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
“New home purchase activity declined on a monthly and annual basis in April, as the spike in mortgage rates cooled demand, and homebuilders continued to grapple with rising costs, supply-chain issues, and extended completion timelines,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting.
The MBA is predicting new home sales will fall for the fifth consecutive month to the slowest pace since May 2020.
Correction: This story was updated to reflect that the data came from the National Association of Realtors.