Sales of existing homes plunged nearly 18% in April

Sales of existing homes plunged in April, notching the biggest decline in a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sales of existing homes plunged in April, notching the biggest decline in a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Sales of previously owned homes fell 17.8% from March amid stay at home orders across the US, with the biggest dips seen in the West. Sales were down 17.2% from a year ago, NAR reported.

"The economic lockdowns -- occurring from mid-March through April in most states -- have temporarily disrupted home sales," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "But the listings that are on the market are still attracting buyers and boosting home prices."

Sales of existing homes in April were at the lowest level since July 2010. It was also the largest month-over-month drop since July 2010.

But while the number of homes sold in April dropped, the median price, of $286,800, was up 7% from a year ago with prices rising in every region. The national median price increase in April marks 98 straight months of year-over-year gains.

"Record-low mortgage rates are likely to remain in place for the rest of the year, and will be the key factor driving housing demand as state economies steadily reopen," Yun said. "Still, more listings and increased home construction will be needed to tame price growth."

Inventory, or the number of homes available to buy, has been tight in many markets even before the coronavirus pandemic.

Total housing inventory at the end of April totaled 1.47 million units, which was down 20% from a year ago.

"April's bleak data highlight both sellers pulling their listings off the market, and buyers delaying purchase decisions during these challenging economic times," said Joel Kan, the Mortgage Banker's Association associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting.

With many states around the country now gradually reopening, the five-week rebound in purchase applications reported in MBA's weekly applications survey may be an indicator that April is the low point for home sales, he said.

"Activity may start to stabilize and move upward over the next few months," said Kan.

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