Existing-Home Sales Slip Again, Yun Blames Mortgage Rates

Still, homeowners are faring well, with property prices surging despite a pullback in buyer demand, says NAR’s chief economist.
Family looking at for sale home

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Existing-home sales slipped further in August as economists blame the “housing recession” mostly on higher mortgage rates, though home prices continue rising, according to newly released data from the National Association of REALTORS®. But while existing-home sales, which reflect transactions for single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops, fell a modest 0.4% month over month in August, they’re down about 20% compared to a year ago.

“The softness in home sales reflects this year’s escalating mortgage rates,” says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Nonetheless, homeowners are doing well, with near-nonexistent distressed property sales, and home prices are still higher than a year ago.”

Home prices rose 7.7% in August compared to a year ago, according to NAR. The median existing-home sales price for all housing types increased to $389,500, with every major region of the U.S. posting hikes in home prices last month. But August did mark the second consecutive month in which the median sales price dropped from its record high of $413,800 from June. NAR’s report notes that follows a typical seasonal drop in home prices after they peak in early summer.

Here are additional key indicators from NAR’s August housing report:

  • Days on the market: Eighty-one percent of homes were on the market for less than a month. Properties typically remained on the market for 16 days, down from 17 days a year ago.
  • Housing inventory: Fell 1.5% month over month but is unchanged from last year’s levels. Unsold inventory is at a 3.2-month supply at the current sales pace. “Inventory will remain tight in the coming months and even for the next couple of years,” Yun says. “Some homeowners are unwilling to trade up or trade down after locking in historically low mortgage rates in recent years, increasing the need for more new-home construction to boost supply.”
  • All-cash sales: Accounted for about a quarter of transactions, up slightly from 22% a year ago. Individual investors and second-home buyers tend to make up the biggest bulk of cash sales. They purchased 16% of homes, which is up from 14% a year ago.
  • First-time buyers: Comprised 29% of sales, holding steady from last month and a year ago.
  • Distressed sales: Foreclosures and short sales comprised just 1% of sales, continuing a historically low level.

Regional Snapshot

Existing-home sales dropped on an annual basis in all four major regions of the U.S. in August. But month-over-month figures varied.

  • Northeast: Existing-home sales rose 1.6% month over month, reaching an annual rate of 630,000. However, sales in the Northeast are down 13.7% from a year ago. Median price: $413,200, a 1.5% increase from August 2021.
  • Midwest: Sales dropped 3.3% compared to the prior month, reaching an annual rate of 1.16 million. That’s down nearly 16% from August 2021. Median price: $287,900, up 6.6% from last year.
  • South: Existing-home sales held steady month over month but were down 19.3% from a year ago. Sales reached an annual rate of 2.13 million. Median price: $356,000, an increase of 12.4% from August 2021.
  • West: Sales rose 1.1% month over month but are down 29% compared to a year ago. Sales reached an annual rate of 880,000. Median price: $602,900, a 7.1% increase from last year.