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Mar 14 2012

Spring Ritual Returns; "For Sale Signs Sprout"...

Posted by Suzanne Baker at 7:50 PM

Inventories of homes listed for sale in February rose by 0.5% from January, to 1.78 million, marking the first increase in nine months.

Still, for-sale listings were 22% below their year-earlier levels and still near their lowest point since the housing bust deepened five years ago, according to the data from Realtor.com.

Housing inventories tend to rise as the spring-buying season gets under way, and they rose in February from the previous month in 86 of 145 markets, with gains of more than 5% in Philadelphia and Austin, Texas. But they declined in Portland, Ore., by 3% and in Atlanta by 2%.

In many housing markets fewer homes for sale means less competition for sellers, possibly leading to properties with multiple bids. But falling inventories could also mean weak demand, and that discouraged sellers are taking their properties off the market.

Meanwhile, foreclosure listings have eased ever since banks slowed down their processes amid processing misconduct that was uncovered more than one year ago.

Nationally, the median asking price increased by 1.3% from January and by 6.8% from one year ago to $188,000.

Several markets that have seen a large drop-off in inventories, including Miami and Phoenix, have seen corresponding jumps in median asking prices by 26% and 21%, respectively. In Atlanta, where median asking prices have declined for seven straight months, asking prices rose in February by 3.3% compared with January.

Median asking prices were down from one year ago by 7% in Chicago, 5% in Los Angeles, and 4% in Las Vegas.

The Realtor.com figures include sale listings from more than 900 multiple-listing services across the country. They don’t cover all homes for sale, including those that are “for sale by owner” and newly constructed homes that aren’t always listed by the services.

Over the past 28 years, the average increase in for-sale listings in February has been 3.4%, according to research firm Zelman & Associates. Wall Street Journal.

     
   
 
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