Another Big Gain in Existing-Home Sales as Buyers Respond to Tax Credit
Washington, December 22, 2009
Existing-home sales rose again in November as first-time buyers rushed to close sales before the original November 30 deadline for the recently extended and expanded tax credit, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 7.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 6.54 million units in November from 6.09 million in October, and are 44.1 percent higher than the 4.54 million-unit pace in November 2008. Current sales remain at the highest level since February 2007 when they hit 6.55 million.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the rise was expected. “This clearly is a rush of first-time buyers not wanting to miss out on the tax credit, but there are many more potential buyers who can enter the market in the months ahead,” he said. “We expect a temporary sales drop while buying activity ramps up for another surge in the spring when buyers take advantage of the expanded tax credit, which hopefully will take us into a self-sustaining market in the second half of 2010. In all, 4.4 million households are expected to claim the tax credit before it expires and balance should be restored to the housing sector with inventories continuing to decline.”
An NAR practitioner survey2 shows first-time buyers purchased 51 percent of homes in November, compared with an upwardly revised 50 percent of transactions in October.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.88 percent in November from 4.95 percent in October; the rate was 6.09 percent in November 2008. Last month’s mortgage interest rate was the second lowest on record after bottoming at 4.81 percent in April 2009.
NAR President Vicki Cox Golder, owner of Vicki L. Cox & Associates in Tucson, Ariz., said conditions are optimal for buyers in the current market. “Inventories have steadily declined and are closer to balanced levels, which indicate home prices in many areas are either stabilizing or could soon stabilize and return to normal appreciation patterns,” she said. “This means buyers still have good choices but are purchasing near the bottom of the price cycle with historically low mortgage interest rates. Throw a tax credit on top and it really doesn’t get any better for buyers with secure jobs and long-term ownership plans.”
Total housing inventory at the end of November declined 1.3 percent to 3.52 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.5-month supply3 at the current sales pace, down from an 7.0-month supply in October.
Raw unsold inventory figures are 15.5 percent below a year ago. The last time there was a lower supply of homes on the market was April 2006 when it was at a 6.1-month supply.
“Nearly all markets experienced a solid sales gain from one year ago,” Yun said. “The only markets with measurably lower sales were in San Diego, Riverside, and Sacramento, where inventory shortages for lower priced homes are limiting sales.”
For the second month in a row, sales have risen in all price classes from a year earlier. Prior to October, the only consistent gains were in the lower price ranges.
The national median existing-home price4 for all housing types was $172,600 in November, which is 4.3 percent below November 2008. Distressed properties, which accounted for 33 percent of sales in November, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes in the same area.
Single-family home sales jumped 8.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.77 million in November from a level of 5.32 million in October, and are 42.1 percent above the pace of 4.06 million in November 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $171,900 in November, down 4.4 percent from a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales in November were unchanged from a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 770,000 in October, but are 60.1 percent above the 481,000-unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price5 was $178,000 in November, which is 3.1 percent below November 2008.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 6.6 percent to an annual level of 1.13 million in November, and are 52.7 percent higher than November 2008. The median price in the Northeast was $223,400, down 13.1 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 8.4 percent in November to a pace of 1.55 million and are 53.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $140,800, a decline of 0.4 percent from November 2008.
In the South, existing-home sales rose 4.8 percent to an annual level of 2.39 million in November and are 44.8 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $151,400, down 1.4 percent from November 2008.
Existing-home sales in the West increased 10.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.46 million in November and are 28.1 percent above November 2008. The median price in the West was $231,100, which is 4.1 percent below a year ago.
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.
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NOTE: NAR also reports monthly comparisons of existing single-family home sales and median prices for select metropolitan statistical areas, and is posted with other tables at: www.realtor.org/research/research/ehsdata. For information on areas not included in the report, please contact the local association of Realtors®.
1The 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.
Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings. This differs 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 generally account for 85 to 90 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger sample – more than 40 percent of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.
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.
2First-time buyer and distressed sales data are from the Realtor® Confidence Index; prior month first-time buyer data was revised due to a computational coding issue after the questionnaire was updated to obtain more specific breakouts.
3Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982.
4The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to the 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 more data is received than was originally reported.
5Because there is a concentration of condos in high-cost metro areas, the national median condo price generally is higher than the median single-family price. In a given market area, condos typically cost less than single-family homes.
Existing-home sales for December will be released January 25. The next Pending Home Sales Index is scheduled for January 5; release times are 10 a.m. EST.