September Existing-Home Sales Show Another Strong Gain
Washington, October 25, 2010
Existing-home sales rose again in September, affirming that a sales recovery has begun, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family, town homes, condominiums and co-ops, jumped 10.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.53 million in September from a downwardly revised 4.12 million in August, but remain 19.1 percent below the 5.60 million-unit pace in September 2009 when first-time buyers were ramping up in advance of the initial deadline for the tax credit last November.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the housing market is in the early stages of recovery. “A housing recovery is taking place but will be choppy at times depending on the duration and impact of a foreclosure moratorium. But the overall direction should be a gradual rising trend in home sales with buyers responding to historically low mortgage interest rates and very favorable affordability conditions,” he said.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.35 percent in September from 4.43 percent in August; the rate was 5.06 percent in September 2009.
The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $171,700 in September, which is 2.4 percent below a year ago. Distressed homes3 accounted for 35 percent of sales in September compared with 34 percent in August; they were 29 percent in September 2009.
NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz., said opportunities abound in the current market. “A decade ago, mortgage rates were almost double what they are today, and they’re about one-and-a-half percentage points lower than the peak of the housing boom in 2005,” she said. “In addition, home prices are running about 22 percent less than five years ago when they were bid up by the biggest housing rush on record.”
To illustrate the jump in housing affordability, the median monthly mortgage payment for a recently purchased home is several hundred dollars less than it was five years ago. “In fact, the median monthly mortgage payment in many areas is less than people are paying for rent,” Golder said.
Housing affordability conditions today are 60 percentage points higher than during the housing boom, so it has become a very strong buyers’ market, especially for families with long-term plans. “The savings today’s buyers are receiving are not a one-time benefit. Buyers with fixed-rate mortgages will save money every year they are living in their home – this is truly an example of how home ownership builds wealth over the long term,” Golder added.
Total housing inventory at the end of September fell 1.9 percent to 4.04 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.7-month supply4 at the current sales pace, down from a 12.0-month supply in August. Raw unsold inventory is 11.7 percent below the record of 4.58 million in July 2008.
“Vacant homes and homes where mortgages have not been paid for an extended number of months need to be cleared from the market as quickly as possible, with a new set of buyers helping the recovery along a healthy path,” Yun said. “Inventory remains elevated and continues to favor buyers over sellers. A normal seasonal decline in inventory is expected through the upcoming months.”
A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 32 percent of homes in September, almost unchanged from 31 percent in August. Investors were at an 18 percent market share in September, down from 21 percent in August; the balance of purchases were by repeat buyers. All-cash sales were at 29 percent in September compared with 28 percent in August.
Single-family home sales increased 10.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.97 million in September from a pace of 3.61 million in August, but are 19.5 percent below the 4.93 million level in September 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $172,600 in September, down 1.9 percent from a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 9.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 560,000 in September from 510,000 in August, but are 16.2 percent lower than the 668,000-unit level one year ago. The median existing condo price5 was $165,400 in September, down 6.2 percent from September 2009.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast increased 10.1 percent to an annual pace of 760,000 in September but are 20.8 percent below September 2009. The median price in the Northeast was $239,200, which is 1.4 percent below a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest jumped 14.5 percent in September to a level of 950,000 but are 26.4 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $139,700, down 5.2 percent from September 2009.
In the South, existing-home sales rose 10.6 percent to an annual pace of 1.77 million in September but are 14.9 percent lower than September 2009. The median price in the South was $149,500, down 2.6 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West increased 5.0 percent to an annual level of 1.05 million in September but are 16.7 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $213,600, which is 4.9 percent lower than September 2009.
The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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NOTE: NAR also tracks monthly comparisons of existing single-family home sales and median prices for 20 select metropolitan statistical areas, which is posted with other tables at: www.realtor.org/research/research/ehsdata. For information on areas not included in the report, please contact the local association of Realtors®.
1Existing-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.
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.
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.
2The 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.
3Distressed sales, first-time buyer and investor data are from a survey for the Realtors® Confidence Index, scheduled to be posted November 5.
4Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, condos were measured quarterly while single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions).
5Because 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 October will be released at 10 a.m. EST November 23. The next Pending Home Sales Index is scheduled for November 5; released at 12:30 p.m. EDT from NAR’s 2010 Conference & Expo in New Orleans; a news conference there begins at noon EDT, which also will cover the 2011 housing and economic forecast.
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