ST. JOSEPH, MI ? "The housing market in March came on with a full head of steam to help raise the first quarter results significantly above last year. Of the 559 houses sold in the first quarter, March, at 245 houses, was 43 percent of the total. The number of houses sold in the first quarter was up 9 percent above the first quarter of 2014," stated Gary Walter, EVP, of the Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS?, Inc.

Read More

Walter continued, "Comparing to February sales (170), March was up 44 percent. The number of houses sold in March this year was up 26 percent over March 2014 (245 vs. 195)."

The first quarter of 2015 ended with the total dollar volume 11 percent higher than in 2014 ($96,329,483 vs. $87,125,749). The total dollar volume in March increased 31 percent over March 2014 ($39,443,923 vs. $30,122,652).

The average selling price at the end of the quarter stayed within 1 percent of last year with less than a $2000 increase in 2015 ($172,325 vs. $170,500). The average selling price in March of $160,996 was up 4 percent over the average selling price of $154,424 in March 2014. In February, the average selling price was $155,828.

The first quarter of 2015 ended with the median selling price surging 16 percent above the median selling price in 2014 ($109,900 vs. $95,000). The March median selling price of $115,500 rose 8 percent above the $107,000 median selling price in March 2014. In February, the median selling price was $108,000.

Walter reported, "The end of the quarter average and median selling prices have risen steadily over the years since 2009 when the local housing market hit bottom to now being within roughly $4,000 of the first quarter selling prices in the peak market years of 2006-2007."

The median price is the price at which 50% of the homes sold were above that price and 50% were below.

"In March, the number of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a part of all closed transactions held to 21 percent, with January and February maintaining at 22 percent. In March 2014 the percentage was 24 percent. In 2014, January had the highest percentage at 36 percent and the lowest percentage occurred in May and June at 11 percent. Looking back, the highest percentage occurred in February 2009 when 75 percent of all transaction involved bank-owned or foreclosed homes. The 11 percent set in May and June of 2014 was the lowest percentage recorded," said Walter.

Locally, the mortgage rate bumped up to 3.91 from 3.84 percent in February. In March 2014, the mortgage rate was 4.5. Nationally, the Freddie Mac mortgage rate in March was 3.77 for a 30-year conventional mortgage.

Walter reported that the inventory of homes for sale continues to drop year-to-year well below inventory demand. In March, the overall inventory fell to 8-months supply of homes for sale from 8.8-months supply last year. In March 2010, the overall inventory was 14.7-months supply.

Nationally, existing-home sales jumped in March to their highest annual rate in 18 months, while unsold inventory showed needed improvement, according to the National Association of Realtors?. Led by the Midwest, all major regions experienced strong sales gains in March and are above their year-over-year sales pace.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 6.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million in March from 4.89 million in February?the highest annual rate since September 2013 (also 5.19 million). Sales have increased year-over-year for six consecutive months and are now 10.4 percent above a year ago, the highest annual increase since August 2013 (10.7 percent). March's sales increase was the largest monthly increase since December 2010 (6.2 percent).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the housing market appears to be off to an encouraging start this spring. "After a quiet start to the year, sales activity picked up greatly throughout the country in March," he said. "The combination of low interest rates and the ongoing stability in the job market is improving buyer confidence and finally releasing some of the sizable pent-up demand that accumulated in recent years."

The national median existing-home price for all housing types in March was $212,100, which is 7.8 percent above March 2014. This marks the 37th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains and the largest since February 2014 (8.8 percent).

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Midwest jumped 10.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.20 million in March, and are now 12.1 percent above March 2014. The median price in the Midwest was $163,600, up 9.7 percent from a year ago.

The percent share of first-time buyers was 30 percent in March, marking the third time since last March that the first-time buyer share was at or above 30 percent. First-time buyers represented 29 percent of all buyers last month; they were 30 percent in March 2014.

All-cash sales were 24 percent of transactions in March, down from 26 percent in February and down considerably from a year ago (33 percent). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in March, unchanged from last month and down from 17 percent in March 2014. Seventy percent of investors paid cash in March.

NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., says there needs to be additional choices for borrowers looking for safe and secure mortgage products to finance their home purchase. Realtors? urge the U.S. Senate to schedule a vote for the bipartisan Mortgage Choice Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week.

"This legislation levels the playing field for brokerages with affiliated business agreements by eliminating the 3 percent cap on the calculations of fees and points in the Dodd-Frank Ability-to-Repay/Qualified Mortgage rule," he said.

Nationally, the total housing inventory at the end of March climbed 5.3 percent to 2.00 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 2.0 percent above a year ago (1.96 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.7 months in February.

"The modest rise in housing supply at the end of the month despite the strong growth in sales is a welcoming sign," adds Yun. "For sales to build upon their current pace, homeowners will increasingly need to be confident in their ability to sell their home while having enough time and choices to upgrade or downsize. More listings and new home construction are still needed to tame price growth and provide more opportunity for first-time buyers to enter the market."

The numbers reported for local sales include residential property in Berrien, and the western half of Van Buren and Cass counties.? All three counties are included in numbers and percentages and do not reflect differences in any individual areas.


The Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS?, Inc. is a professional trade association for real estate licensees and ancillary service providers for the real estate industry in Van Buren, Berrien and Cass counties.? The Association is located at 3123 Lake Shore Drive St. Joseph, MI 49085. The Association phone number is (269) 983.6375.? They can also be contacted through their web site, www.swmar.com.

The National Association of Realtors?, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.