National Association of Realtors

23 November 2016

Existing-home sales ascended in October for the second straight month and eclipsed June’s cyclical sales peak to become the highest annualized pace in nearly a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All major regions saw monthly and annual sales increases in October.

Total existing-home sales 1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, grew 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.60 million in October from an upwardly revised 5.49 million in September. October’s sales pace is 5.9 percent above a year ago (5.29 million) and surpasses June’s pace (5.57 million) as the highest since February 2007 (5.79 million).

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the wave of sales activity the last two months represents a convincing autumn revival for the housing market. “October’s strong sales gain was widespread throughout the country and can be attributed to the release of the unrealized pent-up demand that held back many would-be buyers over the summer because of tight supply,” he said. “Buyers are having more success lately despite low inventory and prices that continue to swiftly rise above incomes.”

Added Yun, “The good news is that the tightening labor market is beginning to push up wages and the economy has lately shown signs of greater expansion. These two factors and low mortgage rates have kept buyer interest at an elevated level so far this fall.”

The median existing-home price 2 for all housing types in October was $232,200, up 6.0 percent from October 2015 ($219,100). October’s price increase marks the 56th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory 3 at the end of October declined 0.5 percent to 2.02 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 4.3 percent lower than a year ago (2.11 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 17 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 4.3-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.4 months in September.

“The ramp-up in housing starts in October is a hopeful sign that overall supply can steadily increase enough to provide more choices for buyers and also moderate price growth,” said Yun. “A prolonged continuation of the robust single-family starts pace seen last month (869,000) would go a long way in giving homeowners much-needed assurance that they can list their home for sale and find a new home to buy within a reasonable timeframe.”

Properties typically stayed on the market for 41 days in October, up from 39 days in September but down considerably from a year ago (57 days). Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 99 days in October, while foreclosures sold in 50 days and non-distressed homes took 39 days. Forty-three percent of homes sold in October were on the market for less than a month.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage inched up in October for the second straight month, rising to 3.47 percent from 3.46 percent in September. The average commitment rate for all of 2015 was 3.85 percent.

“As a result of the anticipated economic stimulus in early 2017, mortgage rates post-election have now surged to around 4 percent as investors expect a strengthening economy and higher inflation,” said Yun. “In the short-term, some prospective buyers may rush to lock in their rate and buy now, while others — especially those in higher-priced markets — may be forced to delay as a larger monthly payment outstretches their budget.”

First-time buyers were 33 percent of sales in October, which is down from 34 percent in September but up from and 31 percent a year ago. NAR’s 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellersreleased last month 4 — revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 35 percent (32 percent in 2015), which is the highest since 2013 (38 percent).

On the subject of first-time buyers, NAR President William E. Brown, a Realtor® from Alamo, California, says the Federal Housing Administration’s low-down-payment mortgage option helps many young and moderate income borrowers achieve homeownership. FHA’s just released actuarial report shows the Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund is on consistently solid financial footing, and FHA should take responsible steps to continue managing their risk while also addressing the high premiums and lifetime insurance requirements that often times dissuade would-be buyers from considering a FHA mortgage.

“To alleviate the cost for borrowers and better reflect the current risk in the marketplace, Realtors® encourage FHA to reduce mortgage insurance premiums and consider eliminating ‘life of loan’ mortgage insurance,” he said. “These two moves would help the current homeownership rate recover from its near all-time low and give more prospective first-time buyers a more affordable financing option.”

All-cash sales were 22 percent of transactions in October, up from 21 percent in September but down from 24 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 13 percent of homes in October, down from 14 percent in September and unchanged from a year ago. Sixty-one percent of investors paid in cash in October.

Distressed sales 5 — foreclosures and short sales — inched forward to 5 percent in October, up from 4 percent in September but down from 6 percent a year ago. Four percent of October sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 18 percent below market value in October (15 percent in September), while short sales were discounted 16 percent (11 percent in September).

Inventory data from Realtor.com® reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in October were San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., 35 days; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 37 days; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., 42 days; Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn., 43 days; and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., at 44 days.

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales increased 2.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.99 million in October from 4.88 million in September, and are now 6.6 percent above the 4.68 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $233,700 in October, up 5.9 percent from October 2015.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000 units in October (unchanged from September and a year ago). The median existing condo price was $220,300 in October, which is 6.2 percent above a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

October existing-home sales in the Northeast climbed 1.4 percent to an annual rate of 750,000, and are now 1.4 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $255,500, which is 2.9 percent above October 2015.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales grew 2.3 percent to an annual rate of 1.36 million in October, and are now 6.3 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $181,500, up 5.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South in October rose 2.8 percent to an annual rate of 2.22 million, and are now 4.7 percent above October 2015. The median price in the South was $202,300, up 7.4 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West increased 0.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.27 million in October, and are now 10.4 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the West was $345,800, up 7.8 percent from October 2015.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

# # #

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 re-benchmarks 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 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 Realtor.org.