Spring optimism in US real estate markets, latest reports show

Residential property sales on the rise

Residential property sales in the US are rising with anecdotal evidence from real estate agents pointing to increased buyer interest with some sellers seeing multiple offers.

Experts say it is more than Spring excitement and could be a sign of a general improvement in the country’s property markets although there are state be state variations and buyers could also be rushing to buy before the homebuyers tax credit programme ends.

The latest pending home sales index from the National Association of Realtors increased 8.2% in February and is 17.3% higher than February 2009. It is in contrast to January’s index when pending sales fell 7.6% from December.

‘The rise in buyer contact activity may signal the early stages of a second surge of home sales this spring. The healthy gain hints home prices are continuing to flatten,’ said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. ‘We need a second surge to meaningfully draw down inventory and definitively stabilize home values,’ he added.

Regionally, pending sales in the Midwest increased 21.8% from January, and 18.7% from February 2009. In the South, pending sales were up 9.2% on the month, and 17.5% from a year earlier. In the Northeast, pending sales were up 9% from last month, and 18.9% from a year ago. The West was the only region to decline, down 4.8% from last month, but rose 14.6% from last year.

‘Anecdotally, we’re hearing about a rise of activity in recent weeks with ongoing reports of multiple offers in more markets, so the March data could demonstrate additional improvement from buyers responding to the tax credit,’ Yun explained.

Separately there are indications that the New York housing market seems to have a new spring in its step after months of crisis with sales doubling in the first three months of 2010 compared to this time last year, data shows.

In the first quarter of the year the number of apartments sold in the city rose by 99.5%, according to figures from the Prudential Elliman real estate agency. But despite the rising numbers of sales, prices remain relatively low compared with the boom years before the US housing market collapsed, according to two other agencies Corcoran and Halstead.

‘The market is definitely recovering, with stabilized prices and a spring sales boom, but this is not yet the big turn. I am cautious,’ said Douglas Elliman, executive vice president of Ariel Cohen.

‘We have a lot of foreign buyers, including Asian and European, because of the strong euro,’ he added.

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