Existing-Home Sales Decline Across the Country in September

WASHINGTON (October 19, 2018) – Existing-home sales declined in September after a month of stagnation in August, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All four major regions saw no gain in sales activity last month.

Total existing-home sales1, https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 3.4 percent from August to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.15 million in September. Sales are now down 4.1 percent from a year ago (5.37 million in September 2017).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says rising interest rates have led to a decline in sales across all regions of the country. “This is the lowest existing home sales level since November 2015,” he said. “A decade’s high mortgage rates are preventing consumers from making quick decisions on home purchases. All the while, affordable home listings remain low, continuing to spur underperforming sales activity across the country.”

The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in September was $258,100, up 4.2 percent from September 2017 ($247,600). September’s price increase marks the 79th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory3 at the end of September decreased from 1.91 million in August to 1.88 million existing homes available for sale, and is up from 1.86 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.4-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.3 last month and 4.2 months a year ago.

Properties typically stayed on the market for 32 days in September, up from 29 days in August but down from 34 days a year ago. Forty-seven percent of homes sold in September were on the market for less than a month.

“There is a clear shift in the market with another month of rising inventory on a year over year basis, though seasonal factors are leading to a third straight month of declining inventory,” said Yun. “Homes will take a bit longer to sell compared to the super-heated fast pace seen earlier this year.”

Realtor.com®’s Market Hotness Index, measuring time-on-the-market data and listings views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in September were Midland, Texas; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Odessa, Texas; Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.; and Columbus, Ohio.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage increased to 4.63 percent in September from 4.55 percent in August. The average commitment rate for all of 2017 was 3.99 percent.

“Rising interests rates coupled with increasing home prices are keeping first-time buyers out of the market, but consistent job gains could allow more Americans to enter the market with a steady and measurable rise in inventory,” says Yun.

First-time buyers were responsible for 32 percent of sales in September, up from last month (31 percent) and a year ago (29 percent). NAR’s 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in late 20174 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 34 percent.

“Despite small month over month increases, the share of first-time buyers in the market continues to underwhelm because there are simply not enough listings in their price range,” said NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall, a sixth-generation Realtor® from Columbia, Missouri and CEO of RE/MAX Boone Realty. “Entry-level homes remain highly sought after, as prospective buyers are advised to contact a Realtor® as early in the buying process as possible in order to ensure buyers can act fast on listings that catch their eye.”

All-cash sales accounted for 21 percent of transactions in September, up from August and a year ago (both 20 percent). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 13 percent of homes in September, unchanged from August and down from 15 percent a year ago.

Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – were 3 percent of sales in September (the lowest since NAR began tracking in October 2008), unchanged from last month and down from 4 percent a year ago. Two percent of September sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.58 million in September, down from 4.74 million in August, and are 4.0 percent below the 4.77 million sales pace from a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $260,500 in September, up 4.6 percent from September 2017.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 570,000 units in September, down 3.4 percent from last month and 5.0 percent from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $239,200 in September, which is up 1.5 percent from a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

September existing-home sales in the Northeast decreased 2.9 percent to an annual rate of 680,000, 5.6 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $286,200, which is up 4.1 percent from September 2017.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales remained the same as last month at an annual rate of 1.28 million in September, but are still down 1.5 percent from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $200,200, up 1.9 percent from last year.

Existing-home sales in the South decreased 5.4 percent to an annual rate of 2.11 million in September, down from 2.12 million a year ago. The median price in the South was $223,900, up 3.0 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West fell 3.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.08 million in September, 12.2 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $388,500, up 4.1 percent from September 2017.

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.3 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 nar.realtor.

NOTE: NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index for September is scheduled for release on October 25, and Existing-Home Sales for October will be released November 21; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.

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