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OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Daily Real Estate News  |  December 28, 2006  |   Existing-Home Sales Rise Again
Existing-home sales continued to recover last month following a rise in October, with the level of sales activity suggesting a turn in the market, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORSŪ.

Total existing-home sales — including single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops — rose 0.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.28 million units in November, up from 6.24 million the previous month. However, that still falls 10.7 percent below the 7.03 million-unit pace in November 2005.

“As the housing market recovers from its correction, existing-home sales should be rising gradually during 2007," says David Lereah, NAR's chief economist. "It looks like we may have reached the low point for the current cycle in September. We’ve entered a more sustainable period of home sales now, and we expect greater support for prices over time as inventory levels are eventually drawn down.”

Total housing inventory levels fell 1 percent at the end of November to 3.82 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.3-month supply at the current sales pace.

Window Opens for Buyers

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $218,000 in November which is 3.1 percent lower than November 2005 when the median price was $225,000. The median is a typical market price where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

“For every 1 percent drop in home prices, we project an additional 50,000 buyers are drawn into the market,” Lereah says.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.24 percent in November, down from 6.36 percent in October; the rate was 6.33 percent in November 2005.

“Mortgage interest rates are the lowest they’ve been since January, and it’s the first time since August of 2005 that interest rates are lower than a year earlier,” says NAR President Pat Vredevoogd Combs, from Grand Rapids, Mich., and vice president of Coldwell Banker-AJS-Schmidt. “This is increasing buying power at the same time that sellers are showing a willingness to negotiate price and terms. Combined with a plentiful supply of homes on the market, there’s a window for buyers now with conditions that we haven’t seen prior to the beginning of the housing boom in 2001.”

Single-family home sales increased 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.52 million in November from a pace of 5.51 million in October, but were 10.2 percent lower than the 6.15 million-unit level in November 2005. The median existing single-family home price was $217,200 in November, which is 3.6 percent lower than a year ago.

Existing condominium and cooperative housing sales rose 3.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 757,000 units in November from a downwardly revised 734,000 in October. They were 13.6 percent below the 876,000-unit pace in November 2005. The median existing condo price was $224,600 in November, which is unchanged from a year ago.

What's Happening Regionally

NAR reports the following changes in regional markets:
  • Existing-home sales in the Northeast increased 6 percent to a level of 1.06 million in November, but were 4.5 percent below November 2005. The median existing-home price in the Northeast was $269,000, down 2.2 percent from a year earlier.
  • Existing-home sales in the West rose 0.8 percent to an annual pace of 1.32 million in November, but were 17.5 percent lower than a year earlier. The median price in the West was $351,000, down 0.8 percent from November 2005.
  • Existing-home sales in the Midwest were unchanged in November, holding at a level of 1.42 million, but 9.6 percent lower than November 2005. The median price in the Midwest was $165,000, which is 3.5 percent below a year ago.
  • Existing-home sales in the South fell 1.6 percent to an annual sales rate of 2.47 million in November 10.2 percent below a year ago. The median price in the South was $179,000, down 3.2 percent from November 2005.

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