Meager Sales Rebound Underscores Tough Market

Following three consecutive months of declines, existing-home sales ticked up in September from the previous month—but ongoing inventory shortages, coupled with recent hurricanes, muted any annual gains, the National Association of REALTORS® reported Friday.

Total existing-home sales, which include single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops, increased 0.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million in September, 1.5 percent below a year ago. September also marks the second slowest month for sales in more than a year, behind August, NAR notes.

“Home sales in recent months remain at their lowest level of the year and are unable to break through, despite considerable buyer interest in most parts of the country,” says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “REALTORS® this fall continue to say the primary impediments stifling sales growth are the same as they have been all year: not enough listings—especially at the lower end of the market—and fast-rising prices that are straining budgets of prospective buyers.”

Sales activity likely would have been stronger if not for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which struck Texas and South Florida in late August and early September, Yun says, adding that both areas saw “temporary but notable declines.”

5 Stats to Gauge the Market

Key indicators from NAR’s September existing-home sales report:

  1. Home prices: The median existing-home price for all housing types was $245,100, up 4.2 percent from a year ago. “A continuation of last month’s alleviating price growth, which was the slowest since last December, would improve affordability conditions and be good news for the would-be buyers who have been held back by higher prices this year,” Yun says.
  2. Days on the market: Forty-eight percent of homes sold were on the market for less than a month. Properties typically stayed on the market for 34 days, down from 39 days a year ago.
  3. All-cash sales: These transactions comprised 20 percent of sales, down from 21 percent a year ago. Individual investors accounted for the biggest bulk of cash sales; they purchased 15 percent of homes, which was the same level as a year ago.
  4. Distressed sales: Foreclosures and short sales accounted for 4 percent of sales, unchanged from a year ago. Broken out, 3 percent of sales were foreclosures, and 1 percent were short sales. 
  5. Inventory: Housing inventory at the end of the month increased 1.6 percent to 1.9 million existing homes available for sale, but it still remains 6.4 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. 

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

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