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Existing home sales in Virginia rose in March, but sales slowed in U.S last month

Existing home sales in Virginia rose in March, but sales slowed in U.S last month

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Home for sale in Richmond

A home on Grove Avenue in Richmond is on the market. Low mortgage rates remain a lure, providing stretched buyers with a measure of financial flexibility. Mortgage rates fell for a third straight week.

Sales of previously occupied homes in Virginia rose dramatically for a second consecutive month but fell across the U.S. in March because there are so few on the market.

Virginia saw 11,518 home sales in March, up 30.8% or an increase of 2,714 homes sold from February, according to the Virginia Realtors organization.

Home sales last month in Virginia were up 9.6% — or 1,006 more sales — than in March 2020.

Existing home sales in Richmond rose 22.1% last month compared with a year ago, and sales increased 18.2% year over year in Chesterfield County, the Realtors group said. Sales jumped 9.2% in Hanover County and 1.8% in Henrico County.

But Virginia’s dwindling inventory of available homes could cause the spring market to cool down, the group said.

At the end of March, the organization reported that 15,787 active listings were available statewide, 13,326 fewer than a year ago, a decline of 45.8%.

“In the current competitive market, many buyers are engaging in bidding wars, offering over list price, and making a range of concessions to improve their offers,” said Lisa Sturtevant, the chief economist for the Virginia Realtors organization.

The median sales price — with half the houses selling for more and half for less — statewide was $335,000 in March, up 9.8% from a year ago. It was $320,000 in February.

Homes, on average, across Virginia are selling significantly faster with being on the market an average of 31 days statewide, 16 days faster than a year ago, the group said.

The March inventory of homes for sale in Virginia amounts to a 1.3 months’ supply, down from 2.7 months a year ago and well short of the six-month supply economists say is needed for a balanced market.

Across the U.S., existing home sales fell 3.7% last month from February to a seasonally adjusted rate of 6.01 million annualized units, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. Sales jumped 12.3% from March last year.

Homes typically sold in 18 days last month, a record low. It’s less than the 20 days in February, and much faster than the average of 29 days last year at this time.

Sales are slowing despite the speed at which buyers are pouncing on homes that do hit the market, revealing surging demand in an ultralow inventory environment, said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.

“It’s simply a severe lack of supply that is holding back sales,” Yun said.

The inventory of unsold homes stood at just 1.07 million at the end of March, only a slight improvement over the record-low 1.03 million homes in February. And it’s tumbled 28.2% from levels just a year earlier.

At the current sales pace, the March inventory of homes for sale amounts to a 2.1 months’ supply. In February, the supply was slightly lower at 2 months. In March last year, it stood at 3.3 months, the NAR said.

The newest housing data will be of no comfort to house hunters across the U.S. who are facing perhaps the most competitive market in decades. Any house that is put up for sale typically receives multiple bids above the asking price, which pushes prices overall even higher — a trend that continued in March.

The U.S. median home price surged 17.2% from a year earlier to $329,100, an all-time high.

Low mortgage rates remain a lure, providing stretched buyers with a measure of financial flexibility. Mortgage rates fell for a third straight week, with the benchmark 30-year home loan rate slipping below 3% this week to 2.97%, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. At this time last year, the long-term rate was 3.3%.

Business Editor Gregory J. Gilligan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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