Most states continued to experience rising existing-home sales in the third quarter 2009, with prices moderating in many metro areas, according to the latest survey by the National Association of Realtors®. Total state existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, increased 11.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.30 million units in the third quarter from 4.76 million units in the second quarter, and are now 5.9% above the 5.01 million-unit pace in the third quarter of 2008. Sales increased from the second quarter in 45 states and the District of Columbia; 28 states and D.C. saw double-digit gains. Year-over-year sales were higher in 32 states and D.C.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the tax credit is a significant factor. “We can’t underestimate just how powerful a catalyst the first-time home buyer tax credit has been for the housing sector,” he said. “It’s given buyers the confidence they needed to get off the fence and take advantage of extremely affordable housing conditions. The buying conditions this year are the most favorable on record dating back to 1970, but the tax credit is allowing buyers to set aside any reservations about waiting for a better deal.”
During the third quarter, 123 out of 153 metropolitan statistical areas reported lower median existing single-family home prices in comparison with the third quarter of 2008, while 30 areas had price gains.
The national median existing single-family price was $177,900, which is 11.2% below the third quarter of 2008; the median is where half sold for more and half sold for less. Distressed sales- foreclosures and short sales- accounted for 30% of transactions in the third quarter, which continued to weigh down median home prices because they sell at a discount relative to traditional homes.
“The decline in the national median price has moderated recently, and a shrinking supply of unsold inventory suggests we are getting closer to price stabilization in many areas, but we need a steady stream of financially qualified buyers to further reduce inventory and get us to a self-sustaining market,” Yun said. “Foreclosures will continue to come on the market, but rising sales from the expanded tax credit should stabilize home prices by next spring and help to stem future foreclosures.”
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage rose to 5.16% in the third quarter from a record low 5.03% in the second quarter, but was dramatically lower than the 6.32% average rate in the third quarter of 2008.
NAR President Charles McMillan, a broker with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Dallas-Fort Worth, said he is encouraged by recent actions in Congress. “Extending and expanding the tax credit to more buyers through the middle of next year is the right medicine,” he said. “Congress understands the impact of housing on the economy, so consumers who aren’t able to complete a transaction before the end of this month now have a second chance but must have a contract in place by April 30, 2010.”
The biggest sales gain between the second and third quarters was in North Dakota, up 42.3%; followed by Rhode Island which rose 26.5%; and Pennsylvania, up 25.6%. The largest single-family home price increase in the third quarter was in the Cumberland area of Maryland and West Virginia at $122,100, up 19.2% from the third quarter of 2008. Next was the Davenport-Moline-Rock Island area of Iowa and Illinois, where the median price increased 14.3% to $115,600, followed by Oklahoma City, at $144,100, up 9.1% from a year ago.
“The wide range of market performance and reversals around the country, ranging from double-digit gains to double-digit losses in both sales and prices, underscores just how local real estate truly is,” Yun said. “The wide changes and mix of numbers also indicates a market in transition, hopefully to one that is becoming more balanced and stable.”
Median third-quarter metro area single-family home prices ranged from a very affordable $61,400 in the Saginaw-Saginaw Township North area of Michigan to $566,000 in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area of California. The second most expensive area in the third quarter was San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont at $538,100; followed by the Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine area of California at $498,800.
Other affordable markets include the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area of Ohio and Pennsylvania at $70,700, and Lansing-East Lansing, Mich., at $86,600.
In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices- covering changes in 55 metro areas- showed the national median existing-condo price was $178,000 in the third quarter, down 15.4% from the third quarter of 2008. Four metros showed annual increases in the median condo price and 51 areas had declines.
The metros experiencing condo price gains were San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, at $215,100, up 13.3%; followed by the Cincinnati-Middletown area, up 2.0% to $119,700; the Toledo, Ohio, area, where the median price of $130,400 rose 1.7% from the third quarter of 2008; and the Indianapolis area at $114,400, up 0.8%.
Metro area median existing-condo prices in the third quarter ranged from $67,600 in Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., to $432,800 in San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont. The second most expensive reported condo market was New York-Wayne-White Plains at $297,500, followed by Boston-Cambridge-Quincy at $293,700. Other affordable condo markets include Reno-Sparks, Nev., at $81,300 in the third quarter, and Jacksonville, Fla., at $91,600.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast surged 16.7% in the third quarter to a pace of 930,000 units and are 6.9% higher than a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast declined 9.4% to $244,500 in the third quarter from the same quarter in 2008. The best price gain in the region was in Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y., where the median price of $119,700 rose 4.8% from the third quarter of 2008; followed by Manchester-Nashua, N.H., at $237,600, up 2.6%; and the Pittsburgh area, where the median price rose 1.5 percent to $124,600.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 13.2% in the third quarter to a pace of 1.20 million and are 5.2% above a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest was down 5.5% to $150,200 in the third quarter from the same period in 2008. After Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, the next strongest metro price increase in the region was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the median price of $145,700 was 7.6% higher than a year ago; followed by Bismarck, N.D., at $157,200, up 7.5%; and Ft. Wayne, Ind., where the median price rose 6.9 percent to $102,500.
In the South, existing-home sales rose 11.3% in the third quarter to an annual rate of 1.97 million and are 5.9% higher than the third quarter of 2008. The median existing single-family home price in the South was $160,000 in the third quarter, down 7.9% from a year earlier. After Cumberland and Oklahoma City, the next strongest price increase in the region was in Shreveport-Bossier City, La., at $152,300, up 8.6% from the third quarter of 2008; Jackson, Miss., at $141,200, up 4.6%; and Durham, N.C., where the median price rose 3.6% to $184,300.
Existing-home sales in the West increased 5.6% in the third quarter to an annual rate of 1.19 million and are 4.6% above a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the West was $224,000 in the third quarter, which is 16.4% below the third quarter of 2008. The best metro price performance in the West was in Yakima, Wash., where the median price of $158,400 rose 2.7% from a year earlier; the Denver-Aurora area at $229,100, up 1.8%; and the Kennewick-Richland-Pasco area of Washington, where the median price rose 0.7% to $172,200.