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Home Prices Pick Up Steam in Most Metro Areas during Second Quarter

Media Contact: Walter Molony / 202-383-1177 / Email

WASHINGTON (August 8, 2013) – Median home prices continued to rise in the majority of metropolitan areas in the second quarter, with the national year-over-year price showing the strongest gain in seven-and-a-half years, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of Realtors®.

Despite rising prices and higher mortgage interest rates, a companion breakout of income requirements to buy a median-priced home on a metro area basis shows most buyers remain well positioned to afford a home in their area.

The median existing single-family home price increased in 87 percent of measured markets, with 142 out of 163 metropolitan statistical areas1 (MSAs) showing gains based on closings in the second quarter compared with the second quarter of 2012.  Fifty areas, 31 percent, had double-digit gains; one was unchanged and 20 had price declines.

Eight markets were added to the report in the latest quarter.  In the second quarter of last year, 75 percent of all available areas showed price gains from a year earlier, and only 14 percent of markets rose by double-digit amounts.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said tight inventory is continuing to drive home prices.  “There continue to be more buyers than sellers, and that is placing pressure on home prices, with multiple bids common in some areas of the country,” he said.  “Higher interest rates are now causing sales to level out, but the tight supply conditions look to be with us for the balance of the year in most of the country.  Areas with tighter supplies generally are seeing the strongest price growth, including markets such as Sacramento, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Naples, San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

The national median existing single-family home price was $203,500 in the second quarter, up 12.2 percent from $181,300 in the second quarter of 2012, which is the strongest year-over-year increase since the fourth quarter of 2005 when it surged 13.6 percent.  In the first quarter the median price rose 11.3 percent from a year earlier.

The median price is where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less.  A shrinking market share of lower priced homes accounts for some of the price growth.  Distressed homes2 – foreclosures and short sales generally sold at discount – accounted for 17 percent of second quarter sales, down from 26 percent a year ago.

Yun notes areas impacted by judicial foreclosure are seeing more modest price increases.  “In areas where foreclosed inventory still looms because distressed properties are mired in a slow process, lender and market uncertainty are holding back price growth.  This includes areas such as New York City; Hartford; Conn.; and some markets in New Jersey.”

At the end of the second quarter there were 2.19 million existing homes available for sale, which is 7.6 percent below the close of the second quarter of 2012, when 2.37 million homes were on the market.  The average supply during the quarter was 5.1 months, compared with 6.4 months in the second quarter of 2012.

“Supplies in the low 5-month range can be expected for the foreseeable future,” Yun said.  “Steady increases in new home construction will help to relieve shortage conditions going into 2014, which would moderate price growth.”

Total existing-home sales,3 including single-family and condo, rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.06 million in the second quarter from 4.94 million in the first quarter, and were 12.3 percent above the 4.51 million level during the second quarter of 2012.  Sales were at the highest pace since the second quarter of 2007, when they hit 5.23 million.

According to Freddie Mac, the national commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.69 percent in the second quarter, up from 3.50 percent in the first quarter; it was 3.80 percent in the second quarter of 2012.  Mortgage interest rates have trended higher in recent weeks.

NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty in Villa Park, Calif., said higher interest rates ironically may end up helping some buyers by making it easier to qualify for a loan.  “Refinancing activity has slowed dramatically, yet banks have a lot of money and staffing resources, many of whom have less work,” he said.

“Banks now have an incentive to increase loan origination, which means they may dial back overly restrictive mortgage lending standards that have been in place since the crash,” Thomas added.  “We are also optimistic that proposed federal regulations will ensure that creditworthy borrowers continue to have access to safe, affordable options for buying a home.”

A separate breakout of qualifying incomes to purchase a median-priced existing single-family home on a metropolitan area basis generally shows potential buyers were well positioned to purchase in the second quarter.  Income requirements are determined using several scenarios on downpayment percentages, which assume 25 percent of gross income is devoted to mortgage principal and interest, with a mortgage interest rate of 3.7 percent.

The national median family income4 of $62,600 would easily qualify a buyer to purchase a median-priced home in the second quarter.  However, to purchase a home at the national median price, a buyer making a 5 percent downpayment would only need an income of $43,100.  With a 10 percent downpayment the required income would be $40,800, while with 20 percent down, the necessary income is $36,300.

In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices – covering changes in 56 metro areas – showed the national median existing-condo price was $199,700 in the second quarter, up 12.2 percent from the second quarter of 2012.  Fifty metros showed increases in their median condo price from a year ago and six  areas had declines.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast were unchanged in the second quarter but are 9.1 percent above the second quarter of 2012.  The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast was $257,900 in the second quarter, up 6.9 percent from a year ago.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales rose 2.3 percent in the second quarter and are 14.6 percent higher than a year ago.  The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest increased 7.9 percent to $160,600 in the second quarter from the same quarter last year.

Existing-home sales in the South increased 3.2 percent in the second quarter and are 15.1 percent above the second quarter of 2012.  The median existing single-family home price in the South was $180,700 in the second quarter, up 11.0 percent from a year earlier.

In the West, existing-home sales rose 2.5 percent in the second quarter and are 7.4 percent above a year ago.  With limited inventory, the median existing single-family home price in the West surged 18.2 percent to $277,500 in the second quarter from the second quarter of 2012.

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:  NAR releases quarterly median single-family price data for over 160 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).  In some cases the MSA prices may not coincide with data released by state and local Realtor® associations.  Any discrepancy may be due to differences in geographic coverage, product mix, and timing.  In the event of discrepancies, Realtors® are advised that for business purposes, local data from their association may be more relevant.

Data tables for MSA home prices (single family and condo) are posted at http://www.realtor.org/topics/metropolitan-median-area-prices-and-affordability/data.  If insufficient data is reported for a MSA in particular quarter, it is listed as N/A.  For areas not covered in the tables, please contact the local association of Realtors®.

1Areas are generally metropolitan statistical areas as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.  NAR adheres to the OMB definitions, although in some areas an exact match is not possible from the available data.  A list of counties included in MSA definitions is available at:  http://www.census.gov/population/estimates/metro-city/List4.txt.

Regional median home prices are from a separate sampling that includes rural areas and portions of some smaller metros that are not included in this report; the regional percentage changes do not necessarily parallel changes in the larger metro areas.  The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to seasonality in buying patterns.  Quarter-to-quarter comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns.

Median price measurement reflects the types of homes that are selling during the quarter and can be skewed at times by changes in the sales mix.  For example, changes in the level of distressed sales, which are heavily discounted, can vary notably in given markets and may affect percentage comparisons.  Annual price measures generally smooth out any quarterly swings.

NAR began tracking of metropolitan area median single-family home prices in 1979; the metro area condo price series dates back to 1989.

Because there is a concentration of condos in high-cost metro areas, the national median condo price often is higher than the median single-family price.  In a given market area, condos typically cost less than single-family homes.  As the reporting sample expands in the future, additional areas will be included in the condo price report.

2Distressed sales are from a survey for the Realtors® Confidence Index.

3The seasonally adjusted annual rate for a particular quarter represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative sales pace for that quarter was maintained for four consecutive quarters.  Total home sales include single family, townhomes, condominiums and co-operative housing.

Seasonally adjusted rates are used in reporting quarterly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity.  For example, sales volume normally is higher in the summer and relatively light in winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and household buying patterns.

4Income figures are rounded to the nearest hundred.

Third quarter metro area home prices and quarterly existing-home sales will be released November 6 at 10:00 a.m. EST.