Courtesy of Guest Author Lee Adler of the Wall Street Examiner
Contracts for the sale of existing homes rose 15.1% month to month in February, according to data reported today by the real estate brokers lobbying organization. Sales were 14% above the level of February 2011, continuing the rebound in housing market sales.
To keep this in perspective the number remains down 37% from the peak February level reached in 2005 at the height of the housing bubble. In addition reported contract failure rates around 33% in February were well above the 9% reported in 2011. Buyers are still having trouble running the financing approval gauntlet, with the result being that the gain in final sales will be much smaller than the 14% year to year gain in contracts. These contracts will settle mostly in April. When the final sales numbers for April are reported in May, the gain should be in the 8-10% range year over year if the fallout rate is similar to the February rate.
At the same time, cash sales are running 33% of total sales. Demand from buyers who do not require or use financing is helping to stabilize prices and even push them higher in some markets. For example, median February closed sale prices of single family houses in Florida, the poster child for the bubble and collapse were up 7.2% year to year. Condo and townhouse prices rose 15.9%. Deny that, bottom deniers. Florida also saw huge increases in contract volume in February. You can't credit or blame the weather for that. It's Florida, after all. February is always nice in the state's biggest markets.
As usual, the mainstream media continue to report only the meaningless and misleading seasonally massaged data, which showed a 0.5% decline nationally month to month. I am only interested in the actual numbers. In that regard, the actual February gain of 15% compares favorably with the 11.3% gain in February 2011 and 10% gains in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, the government was running a taxpayer hosing boondoggle that resulted in a 20% February gain, that was followed by a sales collapse when the giveaway ended in April. Except for that, the February 2012 data is the best February in 11 years and probably longer. Even during the bubble years, no February was as good.