Sales in the largest sector of the American housing market recovered less than expected from January's nine month low as sparse inventory, rising prices and weather combined to inhibit sales.
Existing homes sales rose 1.2 percent to an annual rate of 4.88 million units in February from January's unrevised 4.82 million pace, reported the National Association of Realtors today. Economists had forecast 4.9 million units.
The number of homes on the markets climbed slightly to 1.89 million in February from 1.86 million in January and December, which was on a level with the available inventory in those months for the last two years.
Inventory often hits a yearly low in December and January as sellers await listing for the spring season. But the average number of homes on the market in 2013 and 2014, 2.06 million and 2.14 million respectively, had been a third less than the average number of listings during the prior three years, 2.81 million.
The median selling price rose 2.5 percent in February to $202,600 from $197,600 and is 9.6 percent below the post-recession high of $222,000 last June. However it remains 31 percent above the low of $154,600 in January 2012.
That steep three year gain of more than 10 percent a year in 2012, 2013 and 2014, which largely took place before substantial improvement in the labor market and with wages essentially flat, may have priced some prospective buyers out of the market.
Sale may also have been affected by the harsh weather in the Eastern half of the country in February. Purchases tumbled 6.5 percent in the Northeast, though there were unchanged in the Midwest, equally slammed by snow and ice. Sales gained 1.9 percent in the South and 5.7 percent in the West.
Chief Market Strategist
WorldWideMarkets Online Trading