Real estate news and analysis from The Wall Street Journal
Report: Sellers’ Asking Prices Rose in March
April 17, 2012, 6:00 AM
By Nick Timiraos
Here’s a sign that sellers are feeling more optimistic about their prospects this spring: median asking prices in March jumped by 5.6% from a year ago, and were up 1% from February, according to a report released Tuesday.
The jump in median asking prices comes amid a sharp drop in the number of homes listed for sale from one year ago. While listing inventories in March rose by 1.5% from February, they were still 21.5% below last year’s levels.
Inventories of homes listed for sale tend to go up in the spring, and the 1.8 million listings in March represented the second straight increase for the year. Over the past 27 years, the average increase in for-sale listings in March has been 1.8% from February, according to research firm Zelman & Associates.
The Realtor.com figures include sale listings from more than 900 multiple-listing services across the country. They don’t cover all homes for sale, including those that are “for sale by owner” and newly constructed homes that aren’t always listed by the services.
Compared with February, inventories declined in roughly less than half of the top 30 metros tracked by Realtor.com during March, with the biggest declines in Phoenix (-6.4%), Seattle (-4.8%) and Orlando, Fla. (-4.2%).
Northeastern cities showed the largest inventory gains — a finding that shouldn’t surprise given that sellers are more likely to list their homes when the weather improves. Washington, D.C., saw a 9.5% gain, followed by Philadelphia (8.1%) and Boston (7.4%).
But compared with one year ago, inventories are still down sharply in almost all of the 145 markets tracked by Realtor.com. Just two, Philadelphia and Hartford, Conn., have seen any annual inventory increases. Listings are down by more than half in Oakland and Bakersfield, Calif.
Where are prices rising? Median asking prices were up from one year ago or unchanged in the vast majority of markets, with whopping increases of 23% in Phoenix, 22% in Miami, 17% in Washington, D.C.
The biggest monthly price gains were reported in San Francisco (6.1%), Seattle (5%) and Washington, D.C. (4.1%).
Where are prices falling? Chicago topped the list, with median asking prices down by 9.5% from last year’s levels. Orange County, Calif., saw a 5.4% decline and Los Angeles posted a 3% drop.
Compared with February, asking prices turned up in all but one of the cities, with Minneapolis posting a 2.2% drop in median listing prices from February