published Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

House sales, prices pick up in Chattanooga

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Home sales are heating up with the weather this year, pushing the totals so far this year to their best start in five years.

Chattanooga area Realtors sold 442 houses during February, up nearly 22 percent over the same month a year ago and 35.2 percent above the sales volume in January.

"This growth in sales, in comparison to last year, was in line with the number of pending transactions that we've seen since the first of the year," Mark Hite, president of the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors, said in a statement Wednesday.

February's median home price in Chattanooga was $124,450, or 3.7 percent more than in the same month a year ago.

"The median price for 2012 has started out stronger than the last two years, which is a sure sign of an improving economy and a good indicator of the true strength of the market," Hite said.

The average home sold in February in the Chattanooga area had been on the market for 147 days. Hite said the number of homes on the market is down 20 percent from a year ago "and with sales increasing, we can expect the days on the market to decline further along with the supply of inventory as we transition from a buyers' market toward a sellers' market," Hite said.

Nationwide, sales of existing homes fell 0.9 percent in February after an upward revision to the prior month. The National Association of Realtors credited improving job prospects, cheaper dwellings and warm weather for the best start to the year since the 2008 meltdown.

February sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.59 million compared to an upwardly revised 4.63 million in January. January sales initially were recorded at a 4.57 million annual rate.

"Weather may have helped, but there's something more genuine that is lifting January and February sales," said Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors. "Buyers are very serious. Last year they were kicking the tires."

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