Existing-Home Sales "Roared Back" in March

This morning's release of the March Existing-Home Sales increased from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.71 million units. The February count was downwardly revised from 4.48 million to 5.47 million. The Investing.com consensus was for 5.60 million. The latest number represents a 4.4% increase from the previous month and a 5.9% increase year-over-year.

Here is an excerpt from today's report from the National Association of Realtors.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says existing sales roared back in March and were led by hefty gains in the Northeast and Midwest. "The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month," he said. "Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain. Sales will go up as long as inventory does." [Full Report]

For a longer-term perspective, here is a snapshot of the data series, which comes from the National Association of Realtors. The data since January 1999 was previously available in the St. Louis Fed's FRED repository and is now only available from January 2013. It can be found here.

Existing Home Sales

Over this time frame, we clearly see the Real Estate Bubble, which peaked in 2005 and then fell dramatically. Sales were volatile for the first year or so following the Great Recession. The latest estimate puts us back to levels reached before the recession.

The Population-Adjusted Reality

Now let's examine the data with a simple population adjustment. The Census Bureau's mid-month population estimates show a 16.9% increase in the US population since the turn of the century. The snapshot below is an overlay of the NAR's annualized estimates with a population-adjusted version.

Existing Home Sales Growth

Existing-home sales are 9.2% above the NAR's January 2000 estimate. The population-adjusted version is 5.6% below the turn-of-the-century sales.