For the fourth time in five months, existing-home sales dropped as a shortage of homes for sale continues to plague the housing market. Strained supply levels of homes are making it that sales are unable “to break out,” according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ latest housing report, released Wednesday.
Existing-home sales did see an increase in the Northeast and Midwest in August but were outpaced by sales declines in the South and West, according to NAR’s report.
Total existing-home sales—which include completed transactions for single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops—eased 1.7 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million. Last month’s sales are at the lowest levels in nearly a year.
Nevertheless, demand among potential buyers remains high. However, not enough homeowners are selling, says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist.
“Steady employment gains, slowly rising incomes, and lower mortgage rates generated sustained buyer interest all summer long, but unfortunately, not more home sales,” Yun says. “What’s ailing the housing market and continues to weigh on overall sales is the inadequate levels of available inventory and the upward pressure it’s putting on prices in several parts of the country.”
The South saw a decline in closings last month that was largely attributed to the after-effects from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area. Home sales likely will be impacted for the rest of the year in Houston and in the most severely affected areas in Florida after Hurricane Irma. “Nearly all of the lost activity will likely show up in 2018,” Yun says.
The following are some key housing indicators from NAR’s latest report:
- Home prices: The median existing-home price for all housing types in August was $253,500, up 5.6 percent from a year ago.
- Inventory: Total housing inventory at the end of August dropped 2.1 percent to 1.88 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 6.5 percent lower than a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.2-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.5 months a year ago.
- Days on the market: Fifty-one percent of homes sold in August were on the market for less than a month. Properties typically stayed on the market for 30 days in August, down from 36 days a year ago.
- All-cash sales: All-cash transactions comprised 20 percent of transactions in August, down from 22 percent a year ago. Individual investors account for the biggest bulk of cash sales. Investors purchased 15 percent of homes in August, up from 12 percent a year ago.
- Distressed sales: Foreclosures and short sales accounted for 4 percent of sales in August, slipping from 5 percent a year ago. Broken out, 3 percent of sales in August were foreclosures, and 1 percent were short sales.