Existing-Home Sales Climb 1.9% in October

WASHINGTON (November 21, 2019) – Existing-home sales rose in October, a slight recovery from the declines seen in September, according to the National Association of Realtors®. The four major U.S. regions were split last month, with the Midwest and the South seeing growth, and the Northeast and the West both reporting a drop in sales.

Total existing-home sales1, https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 1.9% from September to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.46 million in October. Despite lingering regional variances, overall sales are up 4.6% from a year ago (5.22 million in October 2018).

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said this sales increase is encouraging and he expects added growth in the coming months. “Historically-low interest rates, continuing job expansion, higher weekly earnings and low mortgage rates are undoubtedly contributing to these higher numbers,” said Yun. “We will likely continue to see sales climb as long as potential buyers are presented with an adequate supply of inventory.”

The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in October was $270,900, up 6.2% from October 2018 ($255,100), as prices rose in all regions. October’s price increase marks 92 straight months of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory3 at the end of October sat at 1.77 million units, down approximately 2.7% from September and 4.3% from one year ago (1.85 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 3.9-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.1 months in September and from the 4.3-month figure recorded in October 2018.

“The issuance of more housing permits is a very positive sign and a good step toward more inventory,” said Yun, citing the latest data for housing starts. “In order to better counter and even slow the increase in housing prices, home builders will have to bring additional homes on the market.”

Properties typically remained on the market for 36 days in October, up from 32 days in September and consistent with October 2018 numbers. Forty-six percent of homes sold in October 2019 were on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers were responsible for 31% of sales in October, down from 33% in September and identical to the 31% recorded in October 2018. NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in late 20194 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.

Individual investors or second-home buyers, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14% of homes in October 2019 unchanged from September but down from the 15% figure recorded in October 2018. All-cash sales accounted for 19% of transactions in October, up from 17% in August but down from 23% in October 2018.

Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – represented 2% of sales in October, unchanged from September but down from 3% in October 2018.

“It is great to see home sales rise along with an increase in housing permits,” said NAR President Vince Malta, broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco, CA. “Both home buyers and the home sellers are being rewarded by these developments, and we see that conditions remain extremely favorable for real estate investment in America.”

Realtor.com®’s Market Hotness Index, measuring time-on-the-market data and listing views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in October were Fort Wayne, Ind.; Pueblo, Colo.; Columbus, Ohio; Rochester, N.Y.; and Colorado Springs, Colo.

Active listings on Realtor.com increased by over 1% from one year ago in only a few of the largest metro areas: Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington (16%), Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise (14%), San Antonio-New Braunfels (9%), Detroit-Warren-Dearborn (5%), Atlanta-Sandy Springs (5%), Denver-Aurora-Lakewood (4%), Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington (4%), and Myrtle-Beach-Conway (4%).

Mortgage rates were trending downward since July through September, but slightly rose in October. According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage increased to 3.69% in October, up from 3.61% in September. The average commitment rate across all of 2018 was 4.54%.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.87 million in October, down from 4.77 million in September, but up 5.4% from a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $273,600 in October 2019, up 6.2% from October 2018.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 590,000 units in October, about even with the previous month and 1.7% lower than a year ago. The median existing condo price was $248,500 in October, which is an increase of 5.6% from a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

Compared to last month, October sales increased in the Midwest and South regions, but sales are up in all regions from a year ago. Median home prices in all regions increased from one year ago, with the West region showing the strongest price gain.

October 2019 existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 1.4% to an annual rate of 690,000, with no change from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $296,700, up 5.7% from October 2018.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales increased 1.6% to an annual rate of 1.29 million, up 2.4% from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $209,900, a 6.7% jump from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South increased 4.4% to an annual rate of 2.35 million in October, up 7.8% from a year ago. The median price in the South was $234,900, a 6.0% increase from this time last year.

Existing-home sales in the West declined 0.9% to an annual rate of 1.13 million in October, 3.7% above a year ago. The median price in the West was $410,700, up 7.8% from October 2018.

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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

NOTE: NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index for October is scheduled for release on November 27, and Existing-Home Sales for November will be released December 19; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.

1 Existing-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% of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample – about 40% 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.

2 The 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.

3 Total 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% of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).

4 Survey 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.

5 Distressed 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 nar.realtor.

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