The housing market experienced a surge in the first quarter. Pre-owned home sales were up 16 percent in the first three months of 2012 from the same period last year. And median home resale prices were up a solid 5 percent.

The price bump was even higher in March, with median prices up 11 percent from a year ago, according to numbers released Monday from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University and North Texas Real Estate Information Systems Inc. “The encouraging news is that March is the first real month of the selling season,” said Dr. James Gaines, an economist with the real estate center. “You can’t argue with the strength of these numbers.“And you shouldn’t be surprised for the second quarter to see numbers as similarly good,” he said.

March was the ninth month in a row that pre-owned home sales in North Texas were higher than in the same month the year before.And the $155,000 price for a median single-family home sold through the real estate agents’ Multiple Listing Service was the best since 2009. “It may reflect that we are reducing the number of distressed home sales — I hope that’s what it means,” Gaines said. “Our markets appear to be strong enough to absorb whatever comes through.”The quarter’s biggest increases in pre-owned home sales were for properties priced between $150,000 and $250,000.Last year, most of the gains were in sales of higher-price houses. That means the lenders are beginning to get more realistic in their underwriting and not making it quite as tough to buy a home,” Gaines said.

The rise in March home sales and strong median price numbers are the latest in a string of upbeat housing numbers for North Texas.New home sales rose 10 percent in the first quarter of 2012 from a year earlier, housing analyst Residential Strategies said Monday. “With the solid results most homebuilders have been experiencing this spring, our expectation is that the increase in start activity will continue to manifest itself in second quarter 2012 as well,” Residential Strategies’ Ted Wilson said.Homebuyers will find a lot fewer properties to pick from this year. The inventory of pre-owned homes listed for sale with real estate agents in March was 23 percent below where it was a year ago. There is less than a six-month supply of houses in the Multiple Listing Service. And there is less than a three-month supply of new homes available in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to Residential Strategies.

With fewer homes available and lot prices increasing, Wilson said, many builders intend to push prices higher this spring. On the pre-owned side, Gaines said that the 11 percent year-over-year price increase in March probably won’t be sustained.“If we can get a 3 to 5 percent overall median price increase for the year, we’ll be doing great,” he said. That would be the first annual home price increase in North Texas since 2006.

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