Existing-Home Sales Decrease 2.2% in September

WASHINGTON (October 22, 2019) – Existing-home sales receded in September following two consecutive months of increases, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Each of the four major regions witnessed sales drop off last month, with the Midwest absorbing the brunt of those declines.

Total existing-home sales1, https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 2.2% from August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.38 million in September. Despite the decline, overall sales are up 3.9% from a year ago (5.18 million in September 2018).

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said that despite historically low mortgage rates, sales have not commensurately increased, in part due to a low level of new housing options. “We must continue to beat the drum for more inventory,” said Yun, who has called for additional home construction for over a year. “Home prices are rising too rapidly because of the housing shortage, and this lack of inventory is preventing home sales growth potential.”

The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in September was $272,100, up 5.9% from September 2018 ($256,900), as prices rose in all regions. September’s price increase marks 91 straight months of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory3 at the end of September sat at 1.83 million, approximately equal to the amount of existing-homes available for sale in August, but a 2.7% decrease from 1.88 million one year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.1-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.0 months in August and down from the 4.4-month figure recorded in September 2018.

Properties typically remained on the market for 32 days in September, up from 31 days in August and even with September 2018. Forty-nine percent of homes sold in September 2019 were on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers were responsible for 33% of sales in September, up from 31% in August and 32% recorded in September 2018. NAR’s 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in late 20184 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.

As the share of first-time buyers rose, individual investors or second-home buyers, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14% of homes in September 2019, unchanged from August but down from 16% recorded last September. All-cash sales accounted for 17% of transactions in September, down from 19% in August and 21% in September 2018.

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

“For families on the sidelines thinking about buying a home, current rates are making the climate extremely favorable in markets across the country,” said NAR President John Smaby, a second-generation Realtor® from Edina, Minnesota, and broker at Edina Realty. “These traditionally low rates make it that much easier to qualify for a mortgage, and they also open up various housing selections to buyers everywhere.”

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 3.61% in September, down from 3.62% in August. The average commitment rate across all of 2018 was 4.54%.

“Mortgage rates under 4% are amazingly attractive for homebuyers,” said Yun. “The rise in foot traffic as evidenced by the open rates of SentriLock key boxes shows growing buyer interest.”

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.78 million in September, down from 4.91 million in August, but up 3.9% from a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $275,100 in September 2019, up 6.1% from September 2018.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 600,000 units in September, 1.7% above the previous month and 3.4% higher than a year ago. The median existing condo price was $248,600 in September, which is an increase of 4.5% from a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

As noted, existing-home sales in September dropped in every region compared to the month prior. Compared to last year, September sales increased in three of the four major regions, while neither growing nor declining in the Midwest. Median home prices in every region increased from one year ago.

September existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 2.8% to an annual rate of 690,000, a 1.5% rise from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $301,100, up 5.2% from September 2018.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales dropped 3.1% to an annual rate of 1.27 million, which is nearly equal to August 2018. The median price in the Midwest was $213,500, a 7.2% jump from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South decreased 2.1% to an annual rate of 2.28 million in September, up 6.0% from a year ago. The median price in the South was $237,300, up 6.3% from one year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West declined 0.9% to an annual rate of 1.14 million in September, 5.6% above a year ago. The median price in the West was $403,600, up 4.5% from September 2018.

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

The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 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 September is scheduled for release on October 29, and Existing-Home Sales for October will be released November 21; 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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