WASHINGTON—Sales of previously owned U.S. homes rose sharply in February to the highest monthly pace in 13 years amid record low mortgage rates related to fears about the coronavirus’ impact on the economy.
Home sales increased 6.5% in February compared with January at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected sales to rise 0.7% to a 5.50 million annual rate.
Existing-home sales were up 7.2% in February from a year earlier, the eighth consecutive year-over-year rise.
The data reflected sales activity before the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.
“These figures show that housing was on a positive trajectory, but the coronavirus has undoubtedly slowed buyer traffic and it is difficult to predict what short-term effects the pandemic will have on future sales,” said Lawrence Yun, the trade group’s chief economist, in a release.
At the current sales pace, there was a 3.1-month supply of homes on the market at the end of February, compared with 3.6 at the same time in the previous year.
Limited housing stock has contributed to higher home prices this year, with the median sales price for an existing home in February up 8.0% on year at $270,100.