Sales of previously owned homes rose nationwide in February to the highest level in more than three years, sustaining a rebound that is bolstering growth.
Purchases increased 0.8 percent to a 4.98 million annualized rate, the most since November 2009, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed Thursday. The median forecast of 77 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for an increase to a 5 million pace.
However, in the Akron area, home sales did not fare as well, with fewer homes changing hands for the second month of the year than in February 2012. Sale prices did shoot up, though.
Sales in Summit County were down 23.4 percent to 275, compared with February a year ago, according to the Akron Area Board of Realtors.
Sales last month were up slightly from the 256 homes sold in February two years ago.
The median sale price in Summit, meanwhile, rose to $102,500 last month, up 27.7 percent from the $80,250 price of February 2011.
Statewide, the sales picture showed continued improvement, with the number of homes sold across Ohio jumping more than 10 percent in February.
It was the 20th consecutive month for sales gains statewide, according to the Ohio Association of Realtors.
Sales across Ohio in February reached 7,363, a 10.2 percent increase from the 6,681 sales posted during the month in 2012. The average sales price of $125,061 statewide was a 7.9 percent increase from the $115,932 average in February 2012.
The Ohio Association does not provide median sales price statistics.
Growing demand nationally for homes combined with limited supply is pushing property values up, leading to gains in household confidence and wealth that are helping propel consumer spending. Easier access to credit and bigger gains in the labor market may be needed to give the housing market an additional boost and ensure it will keep contributing to the economy.
“The high affordability, and the recovery in prices along with persistent gains in jobs and declining unemployment, that’s helping to all come together to generate a better profile for housing demand,” Jonathan Basile, director of U.S. Economics at Credit Suisse Holdings in New York, said before the report.
The median price of an existing home increased to $173,600 last month, up 11.6 percent from February 2012, the report showed. The prior month’s sales pace was revised to 4.94 million from a previously reported 4.92 million.
Jeff Kolko, chief economist at Trulia, said the increase in houses for sale is a good sign. It suggests more homeowners are gaining confidence in the recovery. That could end an inventory squeeze.
“Tight inventory has been a critical issue for the housing market. The limited supply of homes has fueled bidding wars and has meant that buyers have little to choose from and agents have little to sell,” Kolko said.
Federal Reserve policy makers on Wednesday said they will continue to buy securities at a pace of $85 billion a month to spur economic growth. Other reports Thursday showed claims for jobless benefits last week rose less than forecast, manufacturing in the Philadelphia region unexpectedly expanded in March and the index of leading indicators rose more than forecast in February.
Beacon Journal business writer Katie Byard contributed to this report.