ST. JOSEPH, MI ? "Ruthless weather in the first two months of the year can play havoc with housing sales. Last year, January sales were higher than February and this year it was the opposite. February housing sales were up 18 percent (170 vs 144) over January. Compared to February 2014, this year February housing sales were up 12 percent (170 vs. 152). Combine the two months, year-to-date we sold just 2 fewer houses this year versus last year," stated Gary Walter, EVP, of the Southwestern Michigan Association of REALTORS?, Inc.

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Walter continued, "There was less than a 1 percent difference in the total dollar volume for February this year when compared to last year in February ($26,490,724 vs. $26,735,891). Year-to-date, the total dollar volume was also almost dead even with 2015 down by $127,537 ($56,885,560 vs. $57,013.097).

The average selling price plunged from $211,075 in January to $155,828 in February. The average selling price at $175,894 in February 2014 was 11 percent higher than February 2015. Only $743 separated the year-to-date, average selling prices with 2015 up less than .5 percent ($181,164 vs. $180,421).

The median selling price of $108,000 in February was up 20 percent over the $90,000 median selling price set in February 2014. Year-to-date, the median selling price saw a 17 percent increase with $105,000 in 2015 versus $90,000 in 2014. Comparing from 2006 to 2015, this year-to-date median selling price was the second highest recorded over time. The highest was set in 2006 at $110,000.

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

"The number of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a percentage of all transactions in our market held with that in January at 22 percent. This was the lowest percentage in the month of February since 2009 when we peaked at 75 percent. In February 2014, the percentage was 29 percent," stated Walter

Locally, the mortgage rate bumped up to 3.84 from 3.71 percent in January. Last year in February, the rate was at 4.39. Nationally, the Freddie Mac mortgage rate in February was 3.71 percent compared to 3.67 percent in January for a 30-year conventional mortgage.

Walter reported that theinventory of homes for sale continues to be very low. In January the supply of homes available dropped to a 7.8-months supply. The inventory of houses for sale in February 2015 continued to drop to a 7.7-months supply. In February 2014 the inventory level was 8.2-months supply.

Nationally, existing-home sales increased modestly in February, but constrained inventory levels pushed price growth to its fastest pace in a year, according to the National Association of Realtors?.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 1.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million in February from 4.82 million in January. Sales are 4.7 percent higher than a year ago and above year-over-year totals for the fifth consecutive month.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says although February sales showed modest improvement, there's been some stagnation in the market in recent months. "Insufficient supply appears to be hampering prospective buyers in several areas of the country and is hiking prices to near unsuitable levels," he said. "Stronger price growth is a boon for homeowners looking to build additional equity, but it continues to be an obstacle for current buyers looking to close before rates rise."

Adds Yun, "Severe below-freezing winter weather likely had an impact on sales as more moderate activity was observed in the Northeast and Midwest compared to other regions of the country."

The national median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $202,600, which is 7.5 percent above February 2014. This marks the 36th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains and the largest since last February (8.8 percent).

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Midwest were at an annual level of 1.08 million in February, unchanged from January and 4.9 percent above February 2014. The median price in the Midwest was $152,900, up 8.8 percent from a year ago.

The percent share of first-time buyerswas 29 percent in February, up from 28 percent in January and the first increase since November 2014.? First-time buyers represented 28 percent of all buyers in February 2014.

All-cash sales were 26 percent of transactions in February, down from 27 percent in January and down considerably from a year ago (35 percent). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in February, down from 17 percent last month and 21 percent in February 2014. Sixty-seven percent of investors paid cash in February.

"Investor sales are trending downward due to the continued rise in prices and fewer bargains available from distressed properties coming onto the market," says NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark. "Furthermore, Realtors??in areas popular to foreign buyers, such as South Florida and the West Coast, are reporting tempered demand from international clients ? who typically pay in cash ? due to the strengthening U.S. dollar compared to foreign currencies."

Nationally, the total housing inventory at the end ofFebruary increased 1.6 percent to 1.89 million existing homes available for sale, but remains 0.5 percent below a year ago (1.90 million). For the second straight month, unsold inventory is at a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace. ?

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.