NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Existing home sales jumped 6.8% in March, with home buyers racing to get a tax credit that expires in April, according to a real estate industry report released Thursday.
The National Association of Realtors reported that existing home sales rose last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million units, up from the revised rate of 5.01 million in February. Sales year-over-year were up 16.1%.
Analysts surveyed by Briefing.com had expected the March sales rate to hit just 5.29 million annual units.
Home resales have been above year-ago levels for nine straight months, according to the report.
"Buoyed by the unseasonably warm weather, home owners were out en masse scooping-up bargain-priced real estate," said Bob Walters, chief economist at Quicken Loans, in a research note.
In its February report, NAR said winter storms hurt figures for the month.
"Adding to the increase in sales [for March] is the looming deadline of the government's home buyer tax credit," Walters said.
First-time home buyers can qualify for a tax credit of up to $8,000, while those who are trading up could get as much as $6,500. In either case, buyers must sign contracts by the end of April and close the deal before July 1 in order to get the credit.
Legislators have twice extended the deadline to obtain the tax credit, but a further extension is not expected.
The tax credit "has been a resounding success," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, said in a prepared statement. "This is preserving perhaps $1 trillion in largely middle class housing wealth that may have been wiped out."
Price and inventory: The median price of homes sold in March was $170,000, up 0.4% from March 2009. Distressed properties made up 35% of the houses sold during the month.
Total housing inventory rose 1.5% to 3.58 million existing homes for sale. That's an 8-month supply at the current selling pace, down from and 8.5 month supply in February.
Sales by property type: Single-family home sales rose 7.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million in March from a pace of 4.36 million in February, and were 13.3% above the pace 12 months ago.
Condominium and co-op sales rose 3.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 670,000 units in March, from 650,000 in February, and were 39.3% above March 2008's rate.
Sales by region: Total existing home sales rose the most in the Midwest, up 7.2% in March to an annual pace of 1.19 million. That's up 15.5% from a year ago.
|Overnight Avg Rate||Latest||Change||Last Week|
|30 yr fixed||4.36%||4.32%|
|15 yr fixed||3.38%||3.34%|
|30 yr refi||4.37%||4.30%|
|15 yr refi||3.37%||3.32%|
Today's featured rates:
What we commonly call the Web is really just the surface. Beneath that is a vast, mostly uncharted ocean called the Deep Web. More
Sanjiv Patel has invested over $1 million in his peanut company under a program that grants green cards to investors, but he may get kicked out of the country if he doesn't hire eight more people. More
3,000 Americans around the world renounced their citizenship last year. Meet five U.S. citizens who have given up their passports -- or are thinking about it -- to escape an overly complicated tax code. More