US home sales fell 0.4% in April amid limited supply

May 21, 2019 - 10:10 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. home sales slipped 0.4% in April, as would-be homebuyers face affordability challenges and a limited supply of starter houses.

The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that existing homes sold at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million last month, down from 5.21 million in March.

Home sales have struggled despite the solid job market and lower mortgage rates, conditions that are usually favorable for buyers. The jobless rate has fallen to a five-decade low of 3.6%, while the average 30-year mortgage rate has declined to 4.07% from 4.61% a year ago. But buyers are grappling with home prices that have consistently risen faster than wages for much of the past seven years, while construction and sales listings have not responded to pent-up demand from would-be buyers.

Sales have tumbled 4.4% from a year ago. The sales decline is entirely concentrated in homes worth less than $250,000, a likely reflection of a shortage of properties at those price points being listed for sale.

Homes are still selling at a brisk pace. The average property sold in just 24 days, the fastest pace ever recorded by the Realtors.

The median sales price in April was $267,300, up 3.6% from last year.

On a monthly basis, sales declined in the Northeast and South. They were unchanged in Midwest and improved in the West.

Inventories have improved, but there is still a lack of homes for sale by historical standards. There were 4.2 months' supply in April, up from 3.8 months in March. The real estate market was generally considered healthy when the supply is closer to 6 months.

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