Existing home sales gained 4.4% to a seasonally adjusted 5.71 million-unit rate in March from a revised 3.9% decline to 5.47 million sales pace the previous month, the National Association of Realtors announced Friday.

The February rate was originally reported as a 3.7 drop to 5.48 million.

The March rate represents a 5.9% increase from the same month a year ago, and was above the median 5.55 million unit pace predicted by economists polled by Thomson Reuters.

“The early returns so far this spring buying season look very promising as a rising number of households dipped their toes into the market and were successfully able to close on a home last month,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Although finding available properties to buy continues to be a strenuous task for many buyers, there was enough of a monthly increase in listings in March for sales to muster a strong gain. Sales will go up as long as inventory does.”

Sales in the regions were mostly higher in March. They were up 10.1% in the Northeast, 9.2% in the Midwest, 3.4% in the South, but down 3.9% in the West.

The median sales price was $236,400 in March, a 6.8% increase from a year ago.

Inventory levels grew 5.8% from the previous month to 1.835 million existing homes, representing a 3.8-month supply at the current pace. Inventory was down 6.6% from the March 2016 level.

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Gary Siegel

Gary Siegel

Gary Siegel has been at The Bond Buyer since 1989, currently covering economic indicators and the Federal Reserve system.