In another positive sign for the housing market, existing-home sales and home prices posted increases in April, the National Association of Realtors says.
Existing home sales rose 3.4 percent month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million in April, which is 10 percent above last year's April estimate, the NAR says. And for the second month in a row, the national median existing-home price -- which was $177,400 in April -- posted an annual increase of 10.1 percent in April.
NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement that a contracting supply of bank-owned homes, homes in a state of foreclosure, homes at risk of foreclosure and shrinking foreclosure sales were helping to spur a recovery. The analytics firm CoreLogic recently released data showing that the foreclosure supply had fallen from 1.5 million to 1.4 million in March 2012.
Due to government scrutiny and the mounting costs of foreclosures, lenders are gravitating toward foreclosure alternatives such as short sales, helping homeowners avoid foreclosure or lifting them out of it. And against the backdrop of rising employment, record-low mortgage interest rates and rock-bottom prices are coaxing buyers into the market. The rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage sat at 3.79 percent last week.
"This is the first time we've had back-to-back price increases from a year earlier since June and July of 2010 when the gains were less than 1 percent," Yun said of median existing-home prices, which exclude foreclosure prices and new home prices. "For the year, we're looking for a modest overall price gain of 1.0 to 2.0 percent, with stronger improvement in 2013."
Despite green shoots sprouting in the real estate market, experts say banks' unwillingness to loosen their grip on credit continues to prohibit many homebuyers from capitalizing on once-in-a-lifetime buying conditions.
Housing Prices and Existing-Home Sales Rise in April
With summer almost here, it's time to start thinking vacations. And in light of today's rock-bottom prices and mortgage rates, you may not want to settle for merely renting a getaway but instead buy one.
Whet your appetite for R&R season by clicking through our gallery of mansions in 20 of the country's most desirable vacation hotspots.
Russell Dale Phelon, who owned the engine electronics manufacturer, R.E. Phelon Co., currently owns the compound. The home ranks as one of the most expensive publicly listed homes in the country, and according to Forbes, if the 70-acre compound sells even close to its asking price, "it will dash regional records."
"That's not surprising," the home's listing agent, Gary Winn of Sotheby's International Realty, tells AOL Real Estate. "I mean have you seen it? The home's just incredible."
Juneau is a popular tourist spot in Alaska, offering visitors the opportunity to savor a its glacial landscape and diverse wildlife. This contemporary home sits at the top of the local real estate market.
The mecca for imaginative youngsters, Orlando has an abundance of vacation homes ready to host starry-eyed kids -- and their well-heeled parents -- who make pilgrimages to Disney World. This giant 8,676-square-foot home is one of the best of the bunch.
The wealthiest community in New Jersey and 15th wealthiest in the country, Mantoloking is one of the Jersey Shore's most exclusive communities, Wikipedia tells us. This home commands a stunning 1.54-acre oceanfront lot, and its serene setting is a far cry from the raucous party hubs of the Jersey Shore.
The home features an expansive kitchen-dining area with panoramic vistas of the ocean viewable through its sliding doors. Outdoor amenities of the secluded compound run the gamut: There is a wrap-around mahogany deck, gated pool and flower gardens.
Location: San Juan Island, Wash.
Price: $5.95 million
Sq. Ft.: 5,183
The San Juan Islands area is one of the premier vacation hotspots for Northwesterners. Popular activities include kayaking and whale-watching. A rustic lodge perched over the ocean, this home features custom fixtures, heartwood lumber and "Montana river stone," the listing says.
Located in the Outer Banks community of Duck, N.C., this gargantuan home looks more like a resort than a private residence. And it is to some degree: The property is marketed as a "luxury wedding home," and has its own wedding chapel.
Location: Sea Island, Ga.
Price: $8.5 million
Sq. Ft.: 8,970
A member of the Golden Isles of Georgia, Sea Island is a popular resort town in the area and once hosted a G8 meeting. This six-bedroom just got a price haircut, and now will only cost you, well, you still can't buy it -- unless you're in a position to put down around $2 million or so, that is.
Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.
Price: $19.995 million
Sq. Ft.: N/A
Set on the Southern California coast just north of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is one of the Golden State's most desirable getaways. This horse ranch perched on the Pacific spans 22 acres of pristine California real estate.
The two main homes of the pastoral residence have five bedrooms and their own pools and Jacuzzis. There are three guesthouses, a "manager's house," office, tennis and racquetball courts, a movie theater and more.
Location: Bass Lake, Calif.
Price: $2 Million
Sq. Ft.: 2,639
Bass Lake is just minutes away from the southern gate of Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is known for its El Capitan rock formation (one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the world), its various breathtaking granite domes, and its groves of ancient Giant Sequoia trees.
This house on Bass Lake features a private boat dock, built in barbecue and fire pit, and an elevated deck for spectacular lake views.
The open-beam ceilings create a wide-open, bright feeling throughout the house. The kitchen features exquisite cabinetry with plenty of counter space. This home is perfect for vacationing, or year-round living.
Napa Valley was awarded “The World’s Best Wine and Food Destination” by TripAdvisor’s 2010 Travelers’ Choice Awards. It’s known for its rolling hills planted with vineyards and their vast variety of wineries. Enjoy endless wine-tasting and world class restaurants.
This 21-acre estate, dubbed “Villa de Montana,” was given the “Best Property in the United States” award by CNBC. Its gated grounds feature private vineyards, pastures, and forests of oak, madrone, and bay trees.
Location: South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
Price: $3.395 Million
Sq. Ft.: 4,433
Lake Tahoe is popular for its water sports and beach activities, like parasailing, jet-skiing and kayaking. It's also home to one of the most prestigious wooden boat shows in the country, the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, held in August. There are also hundreds of hiking and bike trails around the lake. And for gamblers, several casinos are located on the Nevada side of the lake.
This house is on Lake Tahoe’s shore in a gated lakefront community. Built in 2008, this Tuscan-style villa captures the essence of quality and elegance.
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Price: $4.2 Million
Sq. Ft.: 8,236
This newly constructed house sitting on 10 acres has every amenity one can desire. The rooms were designed with entertaining in mind: High ceilings and large open spaces create a strong feeling of togetherness while also not feeling cramped.
Location: Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Price: $7.5 Million
Sq. Ft.: 8,399
Rehoboth Beach offers lush beaches and a vibrant boardwalk, complete with its famous “Funland” amusement park. The quaint streets offer a variety of dining and shopping options, and the nearby bay and a state park allow for excellent biking, hiking and boating.
This house is truly the ultimate beach house. It features panoramic views of the ocean from its 4,300 square feet of outdoor decks with a hot tub and its bell tower.
Wisconsin Dells is the self proclaimed Waterpark Capital of the World. And it has good reason to call itself that: It has 20 indoor water parks, and is home to the largest outdoor water park in the country.
The house is situated on 6.62 acres with 480 feet of lakeside beaches. The property features a gazebo, three cottages and camping spots for 44 permanent sites, complete with water and septic system.
Moab is the perfect spot for picturesque outdoor fun. Getting in touch with mother nature has never been easier, with 4x4 riding at the Sand Flats Recreational Area; whitewater rafting and kayaking on the Colorado river; hundreds of miles of biking and hiking trails; and rock-climbing throughout the area. For the more extreme thrill seekers, try base-jumping off of Moab’s famous cliffs.
This ranch home overlooks the world famous Sorrel River Ranch and the Colorado River, and is surrounded by Utah’s famous red rock monuments and towers.
The homes interior has plenty of windows, allowing for stunning views of the surrounding landscape. It's finished in traditional Southwest fashion and features hardwood floors, a stone fireplace and covered porches.
The interior of the main house reflects the beauty and tradition of a turn-of-the-20th-century cottage, yet has every amenity you would expect in a modern home. The large windows allow for amazing views of the ocean, and let in plenty of natural sunlight. The home also features a library, several marble and stone fireplaces, and a finished walk-out basement.
Rapid City is just minutes away from Mount Rushmore, the quintessential American tourist spot. Besides the iconic mountainside sculpture, Mount Rushmore offers wildlife tours, nearby camping and hiking.
An amazing value on a large, single-family home with spectacular sunset views. It has easy access to the neighborhood, with outdoor activities galore.