Home sales increased by 2.9 percent in April compared to the previous month, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.
Existing-home sales — which includes single-family, town-homes, condominiums and co-ops — increased to 4.68 million units in April, from 4.55 million units in March, the report states. However, the April number was 3.5 percent lower than the 4.85 million units sold in April 2008.
The group attributed the gain to an increase in the sale of less-expensive homes, particularly those being sold in foreclosure.
“Most of the sales are taking place in lower price ranges and activity is beginning to pick up in the mid-price ranges, but high-end home sales remain sluggish,” said Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist.
He urged the Federal Reserve to improve the condition by restoring liquidity for the jumbo-mortgage market by purchasing bad loans under the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
“Because foreclosed properties will likely be released into the market over the rest of year, it is critical that distressed homes be quickly cleared from the market,” Mr. Yun said.
He said low interest rates and first-time buyers taking advantage of an $8,000 tax credit continue to support the market. However, first-timers accounted for just 40 percent of transactions last month, compared to roughly 50 percent in March. The group said the change suggests repeat buyers are entering the traditional spring home-buying season.
The group reported bidding among buyers for foreclosed homes in California, Florida and Nevada has “set the stage” for an upward trend in the market.
Mr. Yun said the number of buyers looking at homes has increased 14 percent from a year ago, which is consistent with the group’s forecast that home sales in the second half of 2009 will be 10 to 20 percent higher than in the second half of 2008.
The median existing-home price for all housing types was $170,200 in April, 15.4 percent below 2008.
The median existing single-family home price was $169,800 in April, 14.9 percent below 2008.
The average 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.81 percent in April, from 5 percent in March, according to Freddie Mac. The rate was 5.92 percent in April 2008.