Charlotte home sales rise 1.4% in March from year ago

Charlotte-area home sales were higher in March from a year ago, a good sign as the spring homebuying season heats up. But the supply of homes for sale and the average sales price both slipped.

The 18-county region posted 2,658 sales, up 1.4 percent from 2,622 a year ago, according to the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association’s report on existing-home sales.

Supplies of homes for sale remain stubbornly low, frustrating potential buyers looking for a wider selection. Inventory dropped to a 5.1-month supply from a 5.7-month supply a year ago. A widely accepted definition of a buyer’s market is one with six months or more of inventory.

The average sales price declined 0.6 percent to $214,964, the first year-over-year decrease since January 2012. Economists are expecting annual gains in home prices nationwide to slow this year from the sizable annual gains posted in the past year or so.

Sales in the 18-county area increased despite mortgage rates being higher than a year ago. The average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage in March was 4.34 percent, up from 3.57 percent a year ago, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

Tuesday’s report showed that pending sales, those for which contracts have been accepted in that month, were higher than a year ago. Pending sales are generally expected to close in 30 to 45 days. March pending sales totaled 3,758, up 11.2 percent from a year earlier.

“We’re pleased to see forward looking indicators like pending contracts improve in March, which means that future sales look promising,” Joe Rempson, president of the association, said in a statement.

“Consumer confidence is on the rise, and even though inventory continues to be a challenge, we think there will be improvement in the months ahead.”