Existing Home Sales Edge Down in March; Mortgage Delinquencies Continue to Drop

Total existing home sales dropped 0.2 percent to an annualized rate of 4.6 million units in March. The percentage of delinquent U.S. mortgage loans was 0.4 percent down in March month over month.

The National Association of Realtors reported on Tuesday that total existing U.S. home sales dropped 0.2 percent to an annualized rate of 4.59 million units in March, compared with 4.6 million in February. Sales in March 2014 were 7.5 percent below the 4.96 million-unit pace in March 2013, and in fact last month’s sales volume remained the slowest since July 2012, when it was 4.59 million.

NAR also reported that total housing inventory at the end of March rose 4.7 percent to 1.99 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.2-month supply at the current sales pace. That’s up from five months in February, and also up from a year ago, when there was a 4.7-month supply.

“There really should be stronger levels of home sales given our population growth,” NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun noted plaintively in a statement. “In contrast, price growth is rising faster than historical norms because of inventory shortages.”

Mortgage Delinquencies Continue to Drop 

Black Knight (formerly LPS) reported on Tuesday that the percentage of delinquent U.S. mortgage loans (more than 30 days late but not actually in foreclosure) was 5.52 percent in March, down from 6 percent in February. That’s the lowest delinquency rate since Oct. 2007.

The rate of foreclosures is also relatively low. In March, 2.1 percent of mortgages were in the foreclosure process, compared with 2.2 percent in February, and the lowest rate since Oct. 2008.

Mississippi had the highest percentage of non-current mortgages, both delinquent and in foreclosure, in March, coming in at 13.4 percent; among the large-population states, New Jersey has the highest percent of non-current loans: 12.9 percent. The states with the lowest percentage of non-current mortgages, according to Black Knight, are the energy-boom Dakotas — 3.4 percent South and 2.5 percent North.

Wall Street had an up day on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 65.1 points, or 0.4 percent. The S&P 500 eased up 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.9 percent.