House flipping back to pre-crisis levels

NEW YORK – April 11, 2019 – Although house flipping has risen to nearly the same level as it was during the 2006 peak of the housing boom, a new CoreLogic Inc. analysis suggests that most of the current flips are less risky – and there would be less market volatility if prices decline in the next few years.

According to CoreLogic, flips accounted for about 10.6 percent of homes sold in the fourth quarter of 2018 compared with 11.3 percent in the first quarter of 2006. The 4Q 2018 percentage was the highest fourth-quarter level for flips – defined as homes that have been owned for less than two years – since CoreLogic started tracking the data two decades ago.

However, today’s home flippers have significantly larger profit margins than those at the peak of the previous housing cycle, giving them more of a cushion if home prices begin to flatten or fall: They made a median economic profit of almost 23 percent in the fourth quarter compared with 9 percent in the first quarter of 2006.

In addition, the flip market currently is dominated by professionals purchasing older homes that likely need work.

CoreLogic finds that the median age of a flipped home today is 39 years – about a decade older than in 2006.

“Flippers are very different today than they were in the past,” says CoreLogic deputy chief economist Ralph McLaughlin. “Even though we see hype and hysteria in popular culture, this isn’t necessarily something to worry about.”

Source: Wall Street Journal (04/09/19) Kusisto, Laura

© Copyright 2019 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

 

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Mortgage rates increased this week – 30-year at 4.17%

WASHINGTON (AP) – April 18, 2019 – U.S. long-term mortgage rates increased this week, though they remain lower than a year ago in a positive sign for home sales.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.17 percent from 4.12 percent last week and 4.47 percent a year ago. Average mortgage rates have been trending downward since peaking at nearly 5 percent in November, helping to increase home sales after a rough 2018.

The average rate this week for 15-year, fixed-rate home loans rose to 3.62 percent from 3.60 percent.

AP Logo Copyright 2019 The Associated Press, Josh Bo

Buyer’s market, seller’s market or something in-between?

BOSTON – April 15, 2019 – Have we arrived at one of those rare Goldilocks moments in real estate, where the market works well for sellers and buyers, strongly favoring neither?

Maybe. Based on the latest national consumer-sentiment survey by mortgage investor Fannie Mae, American consumers appear to think so. They’re more positive about the direction of the housing market than they’ve been in nearly a year. Growing numbers think it’s a good time to sell and a good time to buy. They expect their personal financial situations will improve this year, and they believe that interest rates for home loans will continue to remain relatively affordable.

Housing and mortgage economists tend to agree. As Michael Fratantoni, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association, told me: Six months ago, “I was guardedly optimistic. Now I’m just plain optimistic.”

Mark Fleming, chief economist of First American Title Insurance, said, “So far in 2019, we’ve seen mortgage rates decline and wages rise – both trends work to boost homebuying power and fuel greater market potential for home sales.”

Yet some economists warn that things are not necessarily as rosy as Fannie’s consumer survey would suggest. They point to troubling signs: Total home sales on a national basis continue to decline. That pattern historically has been a leading indicator that prices could fall during the year ahead, ending years of nonstop appreciation. Plus, houses are taking longer to sell; many owners are having to cut their asking prices.

So what’s really going on? Some hard facts:

  • Prices are still rising but at a slower rate than in recent years. The median home listing price hit $300,000 last month for the first time ever, a 7 percent jump over the previous year, according to Realtor.com. Fratantoni predicts price increases will moderate to an average of just 4 percent this year, 3 percent next year and 2.5 percent in 2021.
  • A notable percentage of sellers’ asking prices are being reduced. In the four weeks ending March 24, prices on nearly 21 percent of all listings nationwide were cut, according to Redfin, the real estate brokerage. Just 16 percent of offers written by Redfin agents encountered bidding wars during the first three weeks of March, compared with 61 percent during the same weeks in 2018.
  • Interest rates have been a great stimulus and are key to a strong spring. Lower rates are good for buyers and good for sellers. Last fall, average rates for a fixed-rate 30-year mortgage hovered near 5 percent, according to data from investor Freddie Mac. In the first week of April, they averaged 4.08 percent. Homeowners and would-be buyers have responded enthusiastically to the lower rates, sending applications soaring by 18.6 percent during the week ending March 29 compared with the week earlier, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
  • Inventories of available homes for sale continue to rise, meaning more choices for shoppers, according to National Association of Realtors researcher Michael Hyman. Listings nationwide were up by 3.2 percent year-over-year in February. That’s generally a good sign for buyers because it helps keep price pressures down. But homes for sale in the primary entry segment for first-time homebuyers – houses priced under $200,000 – dropped by 9 percent year-over-year, according to Realtor.com, while they grew by 11 percent in the upper price brackets over $750,000.

All this is well and good, said Issi Romem, chief economist for realty marketing site Trulia, but in reality, the housing market is in cyclical slowdown mode. Inventories of available homes may be rising, but part of the reason is that houses are staying on the market unsold for longer times in many areas. The price cuts and longer days-on-market times reveal that significant numbers of “sellers are facing greater difficulties in selling.”

What that means is that the Goldilocks theory and perceptions of balance between sellers and buyers may not be quite right. Advantage: buyers.

Copyright © 2019, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond, VA, Kenneth R. Harney. Kenneth R. Harney heads his own consulting firm in Chevy Chase, Md.

Why do many mortgage lenders have a ‘junk’ bond rating?

DETROIT – April 15, 2019 – Detroit-based Quicken Loans is enjoying strong profits and holds the title as the nation’s No. 1 direct-to-consumer mortgage lender. It is one of the city’s largest employers and the biggest revenue-generator in the business empire of Dan Gilbert, the central figure in downtown Detroit’s recent and dramatic turnaround.

Yet in the eyes of the Wall Street credit rating agencies, Quicken Loans is still viewed as a relatively risky business and its debt is rated as below investment grade, or what is commonly called “junk” in the financial world. It’s considered too dangerous for some investors such as some pension funds.

For the rating agencies, a fundamental issue is not how well Quicken is managed, but rather the nature of its business as a non-bank mortgage lender reliant on short-term financing – and without any bank deposits to fall back on.

During last decade’s mortgage market meltdown and financial crisis, several similar lenders collapsed when their short-term borrowing arrangements dried up.

No one contends that Quicken Loans is facing any immediate danger of a cash crunch, but the rating agencies’ cautionary assessment raises questions about the long-term stability of the mortgage lender’s business model – as well as downtown Detroit’s continued resurgence, which has relied on Gilbert’s ability to finance big real estate investments.

Two of the “Big Three” credit rating agencies have assigned junk ratings to Quicken Loans. The most recent action, in January by agency Moody’s Investors Service, scored Quicken as a stable “Ba1,” which is a notch below investment grade on Moody’s scale.

The other agency, S&P Global Ratings, last affirmed Quicken as “BB” in 2017, or two notches below investment grade on that agency’s scale. The third big rating agency, Fitch Ratings, hasn’t done any in-depth scores on the company.

Gilbert defends

In a phone interview this week, Gilbert pushed back on any notion that Quicken Loans is a true credit risk.

“Our balance sheet and our liquidity is the most solid and strongest it’s been since we started 34 years ago,” he said Monday.

Gilbert noted how the junk category has a wide range of gradations and includes companies such as Netflix and Detroit-based Ally Financial, General Motors’ former finance arm GMAC. Simply landing in junk territory doesn’t mean that a company is in trouble and forced to accept exorbitant borrowing costs, he said.

Quicken had a junk rating when it did a $1 billion, 10-year bond issue in December 2017 with a 5.25 percent fixed interest rate.

“If you’re familiar with what people call junk yields, (5.25 percent) is nowhere near that kind of thing,” Gilbert said. “You see companies who are at the worst end of it getting interest rates over 12 percent and the companies that are at the highest notch of what you’re calling junk are getting 4 or 5 percent interest rates.”

Gilbert also emphasized how Moody’s scorecard gave 65 percent weight to Quicken’s “operating environment” in the mortgage business and only 35 percent to the company’s balance sheet.

“What brings us down is the industry we’re in,” he said.

Higher risk

Credit rating agencies are tasked with evaluating the financial health of companies and governments and the riskiness of specific bonds and securities. Companies with junk ratings typically must pay higher interest rates to borrow money than those with investment-grade ratings. That premium reflects the added risk that investors take when lending to such firms, said Sudip Datta, finance department chair at Wayne State University’s Mike Ilitch School of Business.

Some investors like junk bonds because they want the higher yield.

“The rating tells investors that this is a junk-bond category, so be careful, but if you want to have higher returns, take the risk,” Datta said.

Many pension funds and money market funds are not allowed to buy junk bonds.

Credit rating agencies appear to be more conservative these days when rating non-bank mortgage lenders than they were before the 2007-09 financial crisis and recession. For example, Moody’s still gave Countrywide Financial an investment-grade rating – albeit a low one – in November 2007, shortly before the mortgage giant’s dramatic collapse and acquisition at a fire sale price by Bank of America the following year. Today, Quicken Loans has a Moody’s rating that is one notch below where Countrywide was in those calamitous final months.

A Moody’s representative last week declined to comment on whether the agency has adjusted its rating standards for mortgage lenders since the financial crisis.

The government’s official Financial Crisis Inquiry Report called the big three credit rating agencies “key enablers of the financial meltdown” for giving top ratings to mortgage-backed securities that were in actuality very risky.

“There’s probably a lot of shell-shocked rating firms,” Gilbert said. “If you look at the ratings of securitizations from 10, 11 years ago, you’ll see a lot of investment-grade stuff that didn’t turn out too well for people.”

‘Strengthen our liquidity’

Quicken’s bonds have always been rated in junk territory. The company scored a notch below its current Moody’s rating in 2015, when it issued $1.25 billion, 10-year bonds at 5.75 percent. Most of that money flowed to Quicken’s parent company, Rock Holdings.

Gilbert said that both of Quicken’s bond issues (2015 and 2017) were done to “strengthen our liquidity.”

“One of the reasons was the attractive nature of the terms and the interest rate,” he said. “The fact we could lock in debt for 5.25 percent for 10 years without covenants was something we wanted to take advantage of.” (Covenants, in this case, refer to restrictions on a borrower’s activities or debt levels.)

Inherent risk

In its Quicken Loans analysis, Moody’s praised Quicken’s “sound balance sheet” and its “conservative financial management.” It said the company’s core profitability has decreased from the exceptionally high levels of 2015-16, during the mortgage refinancing boom, although Quicken is expected to stay highly profitable for the next several years.

But offsetting those positives is the inherent risk in Quicken’s business model.

Unlike traditional banks that take deposits, Quicken and other non-bank lenders typically borrow money for their mortgages through so-called “warehouse” lines of credit offered by banks and other financial institutions.

Last decade’s financial crisis showed how such funding models can, at times, be precarious. Lenders can pull their credit lines or other short-term financing, leaving dry the companies that depended on the money flow.

That disaster scenario happened to several mortgage lenders during the 2007-08 market collapse that had specialized in risky subprime or “Alt-A” loans, such as now-defunct American Home Mortgage and New Century Financial.

Moody’s did credit Quicken for having more than 40 percent of its credit lines in longer term two-year durations. And it positively noted how Quicken recently began funding a small portion of its mortgages – still less than 10 percent – with cash on its own balance sheet.

A Free Press review of other large non-bank mortgage lenders that compete with Quicken Loans found their credit ratings to also be in junk territory – typically below Quicken’s. Some of those firms had to pay interest rates between 8 percent and 11 percent in past bond issues.

Separately, the City of Detroit currently has junk ratings from at least two credit rating agencies. Detroit emerged from the nation’s largest Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy in December 2014. And Moody’s downgraded Ford Motor Co. to a notch above junk in August.

Government-backed loans

Moody’s said the vast majority of Quicken’s mortgages have explicit government backing through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs, which insure loans against homeowner defaults.

Quicken pools those mortgages and bundles them into securities, which the company then sells into the secondary market. Quicken uses the money from those sales to pay back the credit line funds.

Moody’s said that Quicken holds its mortgages for only a few weeks, which helps to offset risks.

Other risks

The rating agency did mark down Quicken for the long-running Department of Justice lawsuit against the company. That False Claims Act case, first filed in 2015, alleges that Quicken fraudulently approved borrowers for FHA-backed mortgages from 2007 through 2011.

The company has strongly denied the allegations and, unlike other lenders, refused to settle the case with a big payout to the government. Last week, a federal judge in Detroit ordered Quicken and the Justice Department to try one more time to reach a mediated settlement.

Quicken is still the nation’s largest FHA lender and, according to Moody’s, has among the lowest default rates of all lenders for that type of loan.

Looking ahead, Moody’s said that Quicken and other lenders could face challenges in the coming years if interest rates rise and then depress the total volume of mortgage originations.

That scenario might tempt lenders to make dodgier loans to less qualified borrowers.

“As origination volumes decline, mortgage lenders typically migrate to riskier mortgage origination products to boost origination volumes,” Moody’s warned in its report.

However, Gilbert told the Free Press that Quicken, which now has a roughly 6 percent market share, would not start giving out dicey mortgages.

“The one company that didn’t do those kinds of loans and survived and thrived and became the largest lender in America was Quicken Loans,” he said. “So, certainly, we’re not going to do that now, after we watched the whole world explode.”

Copyright © 2019 the Detroit Free Press, JC Reindl. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Study: Home shoppers optimistic but expect a recession

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – April 3, 2019 – Nearly 70 percent of home shoppers this spring think the U.S. will enter a recession in the next three years, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to close on a home, according to new survey data released by realtor.com. Even though they expect another recession, they don’t believe it will be as bad as the 2008 one.

Overall, nearly 30 percent of 1,015 active home shoppers surveyed expect the next recession to begin sometime in 2020; 12 percent expect sometime in 2019; 16 percent expect sometime in 2021; and 12 percent expect 2022.

Nearly 10 percent don’t expect a recession until 2024 or later, and another 21 percent said they didn’t know. The online survey was conducted earlier this month with Toluna Research.

According to the survey, even though 63 percent of shoppers report that home prices are increasing compared to last year, 56 percent of shoppers believe home prices have hit their peak.

The feeling that home prices have topped out could be a reflection of shopper beliefs that a recession is in the not too distant future. In fact, those expecting the recession sooner were more likely to report that home prices had peaked, says Danielle Hale, realtor.com’s chief economist.

“The U.S. economy has been on a hot streak for the last seven years, producing steady economic growth and low unemployment rates. Historically, this type of growth hasn’t continued indefinitely, and U.S. home shoppers think it will come to an end sooner rather than later,” says Hale.

When asked if the U.S. housing market would fare better or worse than the 2008 economic recession, 41 percent responded with better; 36 expect it would be worse; 23 percent expect it to be the same.

The fact that some home shoppers expect the next recession to be harder on housing than the last recession suggests that they are buying homes with eyes wide-open and very sober, Hale says. This buyer outlook stands in stark contrast to the years leading up to the last recession when “irrational exuberance” about the market’s future was more common. It’s also another reason to expect the next downturn to be very different for housing than the last one.

“When the U.S. enters its next recession, it is unlikely that the housing market will see a sharp nationwide downturn. The same record low inventory levels that have made buying a home so difficult recently will likely protect home prices in the next recession,” Hale adds.

According to the survey, 45 percent of home shoppers feel at least slightly more optimistic about homeownership after the 2008 recession. Less than one in four – 22 percent – feel at least slightly more pessimistic about homeownership, while 33 percent reported no impact on their feelings about homeownership.

The duration of the recovery from the last recession could explain the optimism reported by some buyers. Since 2010, home prices across the U.S. have grown by 49 percent, the U.S. economy has grown by $3 trillion and 18.7 million more jobs have been created. This persistent optimism toward homeownership is likely a key reason that home shoppers are confident and looking to buy, even as they expect a recession to be approaching.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®

What does a ‘normal’ housing market look like? This one

NEW YORK – April 2, 2019 – The spring home-buying season could be the best in years, with falling mortgage rates and rising inventory already reducing bidding wars and resulting in price cuts.

“It’s been a rough go for homebuyers since the bottom of the housing market, and there are signs we’re entering a period of normalcy,” says CoreLogic Deputy Chief Economist Ralph McLaughlin.

McLaughlin believes current conditions could be the most favorable for buyers since the housing market bottomed in 2012.

However, economists say that even as activity rises, it’s unlikely that the market will return to a period of booming home sales. Nationally, home prices have jumped more than 50 percent since the bottom of the market in 2012, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which has made affordability a challenge for many buyers.

Economists note that inventory is rising – not necessarily because more homeowners are putting their homes on the market but because homes are taking longer to sell.

“All the signs are pointing to the fact that people are just having a harder time selling their homes,” says Trulia chief economist Issi Romem.

However, it appears that buyers are reaching deals faster, with Redfin data showing that the time it takes a buyer to find a home has hit a six-year low of 73 days.

Source: Wall Street Journal (04/01/19) P. A1; Kusisto, Laura

© Copyright 2019 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

45% of millennials hope to skip over a ‘starter home’

NEW YORK – April 1, 2019 – Young adults have waited longer than past generations to jump into homeownership. And, as they wait, that have apparently ratcheted up their expectations over what that first home will look like for when they finally take the plunge.

Almost half the millennials surveyed (45 percent) say they expect their first home to be their “dream home,” according to a new survey of 2,000 millennials between the ages of 22 and 37, released by Northshore Fireplace.

Millennials are willing to move to a different area to get this piece of their American dream, too: 65 percent say they’re willing to relocate to find a home they can afford, and 41 percent say they’re willing to move to a different state.

But can millennials actually afford their dream home first time out? Half of millennials surveyed say they have only $2,000 or less saved for a downpayment. And they believe their first home will cost $218,152 (average), even though the median cost of an existing home in the U.S. is $249,500, according to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) housing report for February.

In a separate study by Porch.com, a home improvement website, millennial buyers were the most likely compared to other generations to pay more for must-have amenities. Many of the amenities they most sought out related to convenience or comfort, such as a private backyard or patio (they’re willing to pay $7,009 more for a home with one); a swimming pool (they’d pay $6,346 more for one); central air conditioning and heating ($6,194); and solar panels ($5,469), according to the survey.

Some millennials may be willing to wait until they can afford their dream home. Their top fears delaying a home purchase are:

  • Burden of paying a mortgage (41 percent)
  • Unforeseen maintenance issues with the home (35 percent)
  • Being locked into one location by buying (17 percent)
  • Upkeep of the home (7 percent).

Source: “First-Time Millennial Home Buyers,” Northshore Fireplace (2019)

Mortgage rates post biggest drop in decade

WASHINGTON (AP) – March 28, 2019 – Purchasing a home just became a lot cheaper, thanks mostly to the Federal Reserve’s decision last week to put its interest rate hikes on hold for now.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage plunged to 4.06 percent this week, down from 4.28 percent last week. That’s the steepest weekly drop in a decade.

Last week, Fed chairman Jerome Powell said the U.S. economy faces several headwinds, including slowing global growth, a trade war with China, and fading impacts from last year’s tax cuts. Fed policymakers signaled they were unlikely to raise rates this year, after projecting two hikes in December.

Lower mortgage rates, slowing home price increases and a pickup in the number of available homes appear to be rejuvenating home sales after a slowdown last year.

Sales of existing homes surged 11.8 percent in February, a sign that lower rates were encouraging more people to buy homes. The average 30-year rate reached 4.95 percent in November, following a series of rate hikes by the Fed.

Mortgage costs are more directly influenced by the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which also rose last year as many investors shifted money into stocks. Stock market indexes rose at a healthy pace until last fall.

The yield on the 10-year note has fallen sharply since last year, when it touched 3.21 percent in November. On Thursday it fell to 2.39 percent in mid-day trading.

Potential buyers have rushed to take advantage of the cheaper borrowing costs. An index measuring applications for mortgage loans jumped 9 percent last week, the Mortgage Bankers Association said.

Fewer people signed contracts to buy homes in February compared with the previous month, suggesting home sales will cool off a bit after January’s big jump. But economists expect sales will continue to improve this year after last year’s slowdown.

Hiring has been steady in recent months and average pay growth has accelerated, making a home purchase more affordable.

“With mortgage demand strengthening in the wake of the decline in mortgage rates, we look for better sales in the second quarter,” said Ian Shepherson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week to compile its mortgage rate figures.

The average doesn’t include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates.

The average fee on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages ticked up this week to 0.5 point from 0.4 point.

The average 15-year mortgage rate also fell, to 3.57 percent from 3.71 percent. The fee was unchanged at 0.4 point.

The average rate for five-year adjustable-rate mortgages dropped less sharply, to 3.75 percent from 3.84 percent. The fee remained at 0.3 point.

AP Logo Copyright 2019 The Associated Press, Christopher Rugaber. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

February Sales Numbers

February numbers are in with a few changes over same time last year.

Closed sales decreased 3.7% to 208 residential properties with average sales price dropping 6.3% to $348,172.

Median time from listing to contract increased to 59 days from 46.

To see the full detailed report for Indian River County FL click the link below.

Sebastian-Vero_Beach_MSA_Single_Family_Homes_2019-02_Detail

 

NAR: U.S. existing-home sales surge 11.8% in Feb.

WASHINGTON – March 22, 2019 – Existing-home sales rebounded strongly in February, with the largest month-over-month gain since December 2015, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Three of the four major U.S. regions saw sales gains, while the Northeast remained unchanged from last month.

Total existing-home sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – shot up 11.8 percent from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.51 million in February. However, sales are down 1.8 percent from a year ago (5.61 million in February 2018).

“A powerful combination of lower mortgage rates, more inventory, rising income and higher consumer confidence is driving the sales rebound,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $249,500, up 3.6 percent from February 2018 ($240,800). February’s price increase marks the 84th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of February increased to 1.63 million, up from 1.59 million existing homes available for sale in January, a 3.2 percent increase from 1.58 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 3.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.9 months in January but up from 3.4 months in February 2018.

“It is very welcoming to see more inventory showing up in the market,” says Yun. “Consumer foot traffic consequently is rising as measured by the opening rate of SentriLock key boxes.”

Properties remained on the market for an average 44 days in February, down from 49 days in January but up from 37 days a year ago. Forty-one percent of homes sold in February were on the market for less than a month.

Yun, who has called for more inventory over the course of 2018, says the market would benefit greatly in 2019 with additional new housing.

“For sustained growth, significant construction of moderately priced-homes is still needed. More construction will help boost local economies and more home sales will help lessen wealth inequality as more households can enjoy in housing wealth gains,” Yun says. A typical homeowner accumulated an estimated $8,700 in housing equity over the past 12 months and $21,300 over the past 24 months.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 4.37 percent in February from 4.46 percent in January. The average commitment rate across all of 2018 was 4.54 percent.

“We’re very happy to see homebuyers returning to the market, as the beginning of Spring represents a prime time to purchase a new home,” says NAR President John Smaby. “Potential buyers and sellers should seek out a local Realtor to stay abreast of the market and take advantage of the various housing benefits that are currently being extended during housing transactions.”

First-time buyers were responsible for 32 percent of sales in February, up from last month and a year ago (both 29 percent).

All-cash sales accounted for 23 percent of transactions in February, equal to January’s percentage but marginally down from a year ago (24 percent). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 16 percent of homes in February, identical to January’s 16 percent, but a tick up from a year ago (15 percent).

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – represented 4 percent of sales in February, equal to both the 4 percent represented in January and at this time a year ago. One percent of February sales were short sales.

Single-family and condo/co-op sales
Single-family home sales sit at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.94 million in February, up from 4.36 million in January and down 1.4 percent from 5.01 million a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $251,400 in February, up 3.6 percent from February 2018.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 570,000 units in February, unchanged from last month and down 5.0 percent from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $233,300 in February, which is up 3.1 percent from a year ago.

Regional breakdown
February existing-home sales numbers in the Northeast were identical to last month. The annual rate of 690,000 is 1.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $272,900, which is up 3.8 percent from February 2018.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales rose 9.5 percent from last month to an annual rate of 1.27 million, roughly even to February 2018 levels. The median price in the Midwest was $188,800, which is up 5.4 percent from last year.

Existing-home sales in the South grew 14.9 percent to an annual rate of 2.39 million in February, down 0.4 percent from last year. The median price in the South was $219,300, up 2.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West rocketed 16.0 percent to an annual rate of 1.16 million in February, 7.9 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $379,300, up 3.0 percent from February 2018.

© 2019 Florida Realtors®