WASHINGTON (September 19, 2012) - Existing-home sales continued to improve in August and the national median price rose on a year-over-year basis for the sixth straight month, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Total existing-home sales 1 , which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 7.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million in August from 4.47 million in July, and are 9.3 percent higher than the 4.41 million-unit level in August 2011.
Lawrence Yun , NAR chief economist, said favorable buying conditions get the credit. "The housing market is steadily recovering with consistent increases in both home sales and median prices. More buyers are taking advantage of excellent housing affordability conditions," he said. "Inventories in many parts of the country are broadly balanced, favoring neither sellers nor buyers. However, the West and Florida markets are experiencing inventory shortages, which are placing pressure on prices."
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.60 percent in August from a record low 3.55 percent in July; the rate was 4.27 percent in August 2011.
"The strengthening housing market is occurring even with difficult mortgage qualifying conditions, which is testament to the sizable stored-up housing demand that accumulated in the past five years," Yun added.
The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $187,400 in August, up 9.5 percent from a year ago. The last time there were six back-to-back monthly price increases from a year earlier was from December 2005 to May 2006. The August increase was the strongest since January 2006 when the median price rose 10.2 percent from a year earlier.
Distressed homes3 - foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts - accounted for 22 percent of August sales (12 percent were foreclosures and 10 percent were short sales), down from 24 percent in July and 31 percent in August 2011. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 19 percent below market value in August, while short sales were discounted 13 percent.
Total housing inventory at the end August rose 2.9 percent to 2.47 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.1-month supply 4 at the current sales pace, down from a 6.4-month supply in July. Listed inventory is 18.2 percent below a year ago when there was an 8.2-month supply.
The median time on market was 70 days in August, consistent with 69 days in July but down 23.9 percent from 92 days in August 2011. Thirty-two percent of homes sold in August were on the market for less than a month, while 19 percent were on the market for six months or longer.
NAR President Moe Veissi , broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami, said some buyers are involuntarily sidelined. "Total sales this year will be 8 to 10 percent above 2011, but some buyers are frustrated with mortgage availability. If most of the financially qualified buyers could obtain financing, home sales would be about 10 to 15 percent stronger, and the related economic activity would create several hundred thousand jobs over the period of a year."
First-time buyers accounted for 31 percent of purchasers in August, down from 34 percent in July; they were 32 percent in August 2011.
All-cash sales were unchanged at 27 percent of transactions in August; they were 29 percent in August 2011. Investors, who account for most cash sales, purchased 18 percent of homes in August, up from 16 percent in July; they were 22 percent in August 2011.
Single-family home sales rose 8.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.30 million in August from 3.98 million in July, and are 10.0 percent above the 3.91 million-unit pace in August 2011. The median existing single-family home price was $188,700 in August, up 10.2 percent from a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 6.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 520,000 in August from 490,000 in July, and are 4.0 percent above the 500,000-unit level a year ago. The median existing condo price was $176,700 in August, which is 3.3 percent higher than August 2011.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 8.6 percent to an annual pace of 630,000 in August and are also 8.6 percent above August 2011. The median price in the Northeast was $245,200, up 0.6 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 7.7 percent in August to a level of 1.12 million and are 17.9 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $152,400, up 7.8 percent from August 2011.
In the South, existing-home sales rose 7.3 percent to an annual pace of 1.90 million in August and are 11.1 percent above August 2011. The median price in the region was $160,100, up 6.5 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West increased 8.3 percent to an annual level of 1.17 million in August but are unchanged from a year ago. With ongoing inventory shortages, the median price in the West was $242,000, which is 16.3 percent higher than August 2011.
The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing 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. A rebenchmarking of home sales is done periodically using other sources to assess the overall home sales trend, including sales not reported by MLSs.
Existing-home sales 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 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 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 a 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.
3 Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), days on market, credit scores, all-cash transactions, investors and first-time buyers and are from a monthly survey for the Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at Realtor.org.
4 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, condos were measured quarterly while single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions).
The Pending Home Sales Index for August will be released September 27 and existing-home sales for September is scheduled for October 19; release times are 10:00 a.m. EDT.