Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – declined 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.10 million units in August from a pace of 5.24 million in July, but remain 3.4 percent above the 4.93 million-unit level in August 2008. In the previous four months, sales had risen a total of 15.2 percent.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the tax credit is working. “Home sales retrenched from a very strong improvement in July but continue to be much higher than before the stimulus. The first-time buyer tax credit is having the intended impact of bringing buyers into the market, allowing them to take advantage of very favorable affordability conditions,” he said. “Some of the give-back in closed sales appears to result from rising numbers of contracts entering the system, with some fallouts and a backlog contributing to a longer closing process, but the decline demonstrates we can’t take a housing rebound for granted.”
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 5.19 percent in August from 5.22 percent in July; the rate was 6.48 percent in August 2008.
An NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 30 percent of homes in August, and that distressed homes accounted for 31 percent of transactions; both were unchanged from July.
“The recent trend shows broad improvement in most of the country, but with an expected rise in foreclosures over the next 12 months we need to maintain a healthy level of ready buyers to absorb the inventory. An extension of the tax credit is critical to preserve incentives for financially qualified buyers to enter the market,” Yun said.
He added that many buyers had been on the sidelines during the past few years, waiting for signs of stabilization. “Now that the market is showing some momentum, we have an opportunity to achieve a more rapid and broader stabilization in home prices. Extending and expanding the tax credit also would help to keep other families from becoming upside down in their mortgages or risk foreclosure,” Yun said.
“When home prices show sustained gains, credit will become more widely available to other sectors because Wall Street will be able to price risks confidently. Stable home values will also allow more families to purchase consumer products and provide a strong boost for the broader economy.”
NAR President Charles McMillan, said time is running very short for the existing tax credit. “Because it’s generally taking 60 days to close on a home after a contract is offered, buyers have little time to act to complete a purchase by the November 30 deadline,” he said.
“There’s no guarantee what Congress might do, so there’s really no time to waste. Since Realtors® have unparalleled knowledge of local markets, they can also advise first-time buyers on any additional state or local programs that might be able to offer them financial assistance, and help them close on a home before the tax credit expires.”
Total housing inventory at the end of August fell 10.8 percent to 3.62 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.5-month supply2 at the current sales pace, down from a 9.3-month supply in July. Unsold inventory totals are 16.4 percent lower than a year ago.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $177,700 in August, down 12.5 percent from August 2008. Distressed properties continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell for 15 to 20 percent less than traditional homes.
Single-family home sales fell 2.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.48 million in August from a level of 4.61 million in July, but are 2.5 percent higher than the 4.37 million-unit pace in August 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $177,500 in August, down 12.1 percent from a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales slipped 1.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 620,000 units in August from a spike of 630,000 in July, but are 10.1 percent higher than the 563,000-unit level a year ago. The median existing condo price was $179,300 in August, which is 15.7 percent below August 2008.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 2.2 percent to an annual pace of 910,000 in August, but are 5.8 percent above August 2008. The median price in the Northeast was $241,100, which is 10.5 percent below a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest fell 6.6 percent in August to a level of 1.14 million but are unchanged from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $149,900, down 10.4 percent from August 2008.
In the South, existing-home sales were down 3.1 percent to an annual pace of 1.89 million in August but are 1.6 percent above August 2008. The median price in the South was $157,400, which is 11.0 percent below a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West declined 2.7 percent to an annual rate of 1.16 million in August but are 7.4 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the West was $220,500, down 12.2 percent from August 2008.
The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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NOTE: Beginning with this report, NAR is including monthly comparisons of existing single-family home sales and median prices for select metropolitan statistical areas. For information on areas not included in this report, please contact your local Realtor® association.
1 The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.
Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings. This differs from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which generally account for 85 to 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger sample – more than 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.
Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.
2 Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982.
3 The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to the seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if more data is received than was originally reported.
4 Because there is a concentration of condos in high-cost metro areas, the national median condo price generally is higher than the median single-family price. In a given market area, condos typically cost less than single-family homes.
Existing-home sales for September will be released October 23. The next Pending Home Sales Index & Forecast is scheduled for October 1; release times are 10 a.m. EDT.
Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the News Media section. Statistical data in this release, other tables and surveys also may be found by clicking on Research.
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