WASHINGTON (October 20, 2016) — Existing-home sales rebounded strongly in September and were propelled by sales from first-time buyers reaching a 34 percent share, which is a high not seen in over four years, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All major regions saw an increase in closings last month, and distressed sales fell to a new low of 4 percent of the market.
Total existing-home sales 1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, hiked 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.47 million in September from a downwardly revised 5.30 million in August. After last month's gain, sales are at their highest pace since June (5.57 million) and are 0.6 percent above a year ago (5.44 million).
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the two-month slump in existing sales reversed course convincingly in September. "The home search over the past several months for a lot of prospective buyers, and especially for first-time buyers, took longer than usual because of the competition for the minimal amount of homes for sale," he said. "Most families and move-up buyers look to close before the new school year starts. Their diminishing presence from the market towards the end of summer created more opportunities for aspiring first-time homeowners to buy last month."
The median existing-home price 2 for all housing types in September was $234,200, up 5.6 percent from September 2015 ($221,700). September's price increase marks the 55th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
Total housing inventory 3 at the end of September rose 1.5 percent to 2.04 million existing homes available for sale, but is still 6.8 percent lower than a year ago (2.19 million) and has now fallen year-over-year for 16 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.6 months in August.
"Inventory has been extremely tight all year and is unlikely to improve now that the seasonal decline in listings is about to kick in," added Yun. "Unfortunately, there won't be much relief from new home construction, which continues to be grossly inadequate in relation to demand."
Matching the highest share since July 2012, first-time buyers were 34 percent of sales in September, which is up from 31 percent in August and 29 percent a year ago. First-time buyers represented 30 percent of sales in all of 2015.
"There's hope the leap in sales to first-time buyers can stick through the rest of the year and into next spring," explained Yun. "The market fundamentals — primarily consistent job gains and affordable mortgage rates — are there for the steady rise in first-timers needed to finally reverse the decline in the homeownership rate."
On the topic of first-time buyers, NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida said government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a duty to ensure there's access to mortgage credit for creditworthy borrowers wanting to buy a home.
"Unfortunately, overly burdensome fees at the GSEs are making homeownership difficult for moderate-income buyers. Fannie and Freddie can reduce the cost of borrowing while still protecting taxpayers, and we're hopeful they'll take these steps to ensure prospective buyers are able to enter the market," he said.
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage inched up in September for the first time since March, rising to 3.46 percent from 3.44 percent in August. The average commitment rate for all of 2015 was 3.85 percent.
Distressed sales 4 — foreclosures and short sales — fell to a new low of 4 percent in September (since NAR began tracking in October 2008), down from 5 percent in August and 7 percent a year ago. Three percent of September sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 15 percent below market value in September (12 percent in August), while short sales were discounted 11 percent (14 percent in August).
Properties typically stayed on the market for 39 days in September, up from 36 days in August but down considerably from a year ago (49 days). Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 118 days in September, while foreclosures sold in 67 days and non-distressed homes took 38 days. Forty-four percent of homes sold in September were on the market for less than a month.
Inventory data from Realtor.com® reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in September were San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 34 days; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., 35 days; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., 38 days; and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., and Salt Lake City, Utah, both at 39 days.
All-cash sales were 21 percent of transactions in September, down from 22 percent in August and 24 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in September, up from 13 percent both in August and a year ago. Sixty-five percent of investors paid in cash in September.
Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales increased 4.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.86 million in September from 4.67 million in August, and are now 0.6 percent above the 4.83 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $235,700 in September, up 5.6 percent from September 2015.
Existing condominium and co-op sales declined 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000 units in September from 630,000 in August, and are unchanged from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $222,100 in September, which is 6.1 percent above a year ago.
September existing-home sales in the Northeast leapt 5.7 percent to an annual rate of 740,000, which is unchanged from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $261,600, which is 2.1 percent above September 2015.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales grew 3.9 percent to an annual rate of 1.32 million in September, and are now 2.3 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $184,500, up 5.9 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the South in September ticked up 0.9 percent to an annual rate of 2.16 million, but are still 0.9 percent below September 2015. The median price in the South was $204,000, up 6.6 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West jumped 5.0 percent to an annual rate of 1.25 million in September, and are now 1.6 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the West was $345,400, up 8.1 percent from September 2015.
The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 1.1 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.
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 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.
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 percent of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).
4 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.
NOTE: NAR's Pending Home Sales Index for September will be released October 27, NAR's 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers is scheduled for October 31, and Existing-Home Sales for October will be released November 22; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.