The housing market is slowly recovering strength, but there are still signs of lingering weakness headed into spring.
Despite mostly anemic housing statistics this past winter, single-family home prices in 20 metro areas rose 0.8 percent in February, beating analysts' estimates. The year-over-year increase was 12.9 percent, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller composite index.
Pumping an additional bit of life into the market, pending home sales showed the first gain in nine months, rising 3.4 percent in March, according to the National Association of Realtors. However, sales are still 7.9 percent below March 2013.
Prices will continue to rise
The weak start to the year, blamed on severe winter weather and shortage of inventory, will likely mean that existing-home sales won't beat 2013, according to the NAR. Total sales are forecast at a little over 4.9 million, compared with close to 5.1 million last year.
The lack of available homes for sale, however, means that national median prices will continue rising, growing between 6 percent and 7 percent this year.
Pent-up demand will bring homebuyers out, despite rising prices, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR. "After a dismal winter, more buyers got an opportunity to look at homes last month and are beginning to make contract offers," he said in a news release. "Sales activity is expected to steadily pick up as more inventory reaches the market, and from ongoing job creation in the economy."
Sales still lag last year
Pending sales, which are based on contract signings, were down from a year ago in all four regions of the country. In the Northeast, sales were down 5.9 percent from a year ago, but up slightly from February. The Midwest saw a month-over-month decline of .8 percent and a 10.1 percent decline from a year ago. In the South, pending sales rose 5.6 percent from February, but are 5.3 percent below last year and the West is down 11.1 percent from a year ago, but up 5.7 percent from February to March.
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