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Existing-Home Sales Slip 2.3 Percent in April; Days on Market Falls to Under a Month

Media Contact: Adam DeSanctis / 202-383-1178 / Email

WASHINGTON (May 24, 2017) — Stubbornly low supply levels held down existing-home sales in April and also pushed the median number of days a home was on the market to a new low of 29 days, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Total existing-home sales1, https://www.nar.realtor/topics/existing-home-sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, dipped 2.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million in April from a downwardly revised 5.70 million in March. Despite last month's decline, sales are still 1.6 percent above a year ago and at the fourth highest pace over the past year.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says every major region except for the Midwest saw a retreat in existing sales in April. "Last month's dip in closings was somewhat expected given that there was such a strong sales increase in March at 4.2 percent, and new and existing inventory is not keeping up with the fast pace homes are coming off the market," he said. "Demand is easily outstripping supply in most of the country and it's stymieing many prospective buyers from finding a home to purchase." 

The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in April was $244,800, up 6.0 percent from April 2016 ($230,900). April's price increase marks the 62nd straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory3 at the end of April climbed 7.2 percent to 1.93 million existing homes available for sale, but is still 9.0 percent lower than a year ago (2.12 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 23 consecutive months. Unsold inventory is at a 4.2-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.6 months a year ago.  

"Realtors® continue to voice the frustration their clients are experiencing because of the insufficient number of homes for sale," added Yun. "Homes in the lower- and mid-market price range are hard to find in most markets, and when one is listed for sale, interest is immediate and multiple offers are nudging the eventual sales prices higher."

Properties typically stayed on the market for 29 days in April, which is down from 34 days in March and 39 days a year ago, and surpasses last May (32 days) as the shortest timeframe since NAR began tracking in May 2011. Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 88 days in April, while foreclosures sold in 46 days and non-distressed homes took 28 days. Fifty-two percent of homes sold in April were on the market for less than a month (a new high).

Inventory data from realtor.com® reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in April were San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 23 days; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., 25 days; Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., 27 days; and Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., 28 days.  

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage declined for the first time in six months, dipping to 4.05 percent in April from 4.20 percent in March. The average commitment rate for all of 2016 was 3.65 percent.

"Mortgage rates have been stuck in a holding pattern in recent months, which is a relief for spring homebuyers," said Yun. "With price growth showing little sign of slowing, prospective first-time buyers will be the most sensitive to any sudden uptick in rates in the months ahead."  

Matching the highest percentage since last September, first-time buyers were 34 percent of sales in April, which is up from 32 percent both in March and a year ago. NAR's 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellersreleased in late 20164 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 35 percent.

President William E. Brown, a Realtor® from Alamo, California, says it's not only prospective homebuyers who are facing housing issues; many middle-income homeowners who benefit from the mortgage interest deduction could be slapped with a tax increase if some of the tax reform proposals currently being discussed go through. A recently released study commissioned by NAR titled, "Impact of Tax Reform Options on Owner-Occupied Housing," estimated taxes would rise on average by $815 each year for homeowners with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $200,000. Furthermore, home values could shrink by an average of more than 10 percent, with areas with higher property taxes or state income taxes experiencing an even steeper decline.

"Realtors® support tax reform, but any plan that effectively nullifies the current tax benefits of owning a home is a non-starter for the roughly 75 million homeowners and countless prospective first-time buyers that see owning a home as part of their American Dream," said Brown. Thousands of Realtors® took this message to Capitol Hill last week during NAR's annual legislative meetings in Washington, D.C.

All-cash sales were 21 percent of transactions in April, down from 23 percent in March and 24 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 15 percent of homes in April, unchanged from March but up from 13 percent a year ago. Fifty-seven percent of investors paid in cash in April.

Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – were 5 percent of sales in April, down from 6 percent in March and 7 percent a year ago. Three percent of April sales were foreclosures and 2 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 18 percent below market value in April (16 percent in March), while short sales were discounted 12 percent (14 percent in March).

Members of the media are invited to attend the upcoming Sustainable Homeownership Conference on June 9 at University of California's Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. In celebration of National Homeownership Month, the conference brings together experts to examine housing trends and real estate's positive impacts. NAR's Brown and Yun and Berkeley Hass Real Estate Group Chair Ken Rosen are among the prominent experts scheduled to speak. To register contact Adam DeSanctis, 202-383-1178 or adesanctis@realtors.org.  

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales decreased 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.95 million in April from 5.07 million in March, but are still 1.6 percent above the 4.87 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $246,100 in April, up 6.1 percent from April 2016.

Existing condominium and co-op sales declined 1.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 620,000 units in April, but are still 1.6 percent higher than a year ago. The median existing condo price was $234,600 in April, which is 5.6 percent above a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

April existing-home sales in the Northeast dipped 2.7 percent to an annual rate of 730,000, and are now 2.7 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $267,700, which is 1.6 percent above April 2016.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales increased 3.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.36 million in April, but are 0.7 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $194,500, up 7.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South in fell 5.0 percent to an annual rate of 2.30 million, but are still 3.6 percent above April 2016. The median price in the South was $217,700, up 7.9 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West declined 3.3 percent to an annual rate of 1.18 million in April, but are still 3.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $358,600, up 6.8 percent from April 2016.

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:  For local information, please contact the local association of Realtors® for data from local multiple listing services. Local MLS data is the most accurate source of sales and price information in specific areas, although there may be differences in reporting methodology.

1Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from Multiple Listing Services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. NAR rebenchmarks home sales periodically using other sources to assess overall home sales trends, including sales not reported by MLSs.

Existing-home sales, based on closings, differ 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 account for more than 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample – about 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 median price is where half sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical of market conditions than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to 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 additional data is received.

The national median condo/co-op price often is higher than the median single-family home price because condos are concentrated in higher-cost housing markets. However, in a given area, single-family homes typically sell for more than condos as seen in NAR's quarterly metro area price reports.

3Total 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, single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).

4Survey results represent owner-occupants and differ from separately reported monthly findings from NAR's Realtors® Confidence Index, which include all types of buyers. Investors are under-represented in the annual study because survey questionnaires are mailed to the addresses of the property purchased and generally are not returned by absentee owners. Results include both new and existing homes.

5Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), days on market, first-time buyers, all-cash transactions and investors are from a monthly survey for the NAR's Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at Realtor.org.

NOTE: NAR's Pending Home Sales Index for April is scheduled for release on May 31, and Existing-Home Sales for May will be released June 21; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.