san-jose-us-home-prices Photo: the_tahoe_guy/Flickr

The first quarter of 2016 was the busiest for US home sales in nearly a decade, but with more housing stock the level of activity could have been higher still, says the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

“In spite of deficient supply levels, stock market volatility and the paltry economic growth seen so far this year, the housing market did show resilience and had its best first quarter of existing sales since 2007,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, in a statement.

Existing home sales in the first three months of 2016 reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 5.29 million, up 1.7 percent from the previous quarter and 4.8 percent from a year ago, according to NAR’s latest quarterly report.

“The demand for buying is there, but unless the stock of new and existing homes for sale increases significantly — especially in several markets in the west — the housing market will struggle to reach its full potential,” adds Yun, who pegged Q1 2007 sales at a SAAR of 5.66 million.

At March’s end, those in the market for an existing home had 1.98 million to choose from across the US, short of the 2.01 million that were available at the same time in 2015.

“Unfortunately, sales were somewhat subdued by supply and demand imbalances and broadly rising prices above wage growth,” says Yun. “As a result,” he continues, “the path to homeownership so far this year remains strenuous for a segment of prospective buyers in the most competitive areas.”

In 87 percent of the 178 metro areas NAR tracks for its quarterly reports, the median price for existing single-family homes increased. A year ago, annual price growth was observed in 81 percent of these markets.

Over a period of 12 months ending in March this year, the median US single-family home price rose 6.3 percent to $217,600. For condos and co-ops, the median price throughout 60 metro areas hit $204,700, rising 5.8 percent from one year earlier.

California laid claim to four out of the five priciest single-family housing markets this past quarter, with San Jose leading the country with a median price of $970,000. San Francisco followed at $770,300, ahead of Honolulu, Hawaii, where it was $721,400. Anaheim-Santa Ana and San Diego round out the top five with median prices of $713,700 and $554,300, respectively.

The most affordable market was Cumberland, Maryland, as its median home price was $67,400. That’s more than $10,000 cheaper than the next metro area on the list, Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio. There, the median price was $77,500 at last quarter’s count.

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