Existing-Home Sales Lose Momentum in November as Inventory Slightly Tightens
WASHINGTON (December 22, 2014) – After hitting their highest level of the year, existing-home sales slid in November as housing supply showed some tightening, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All major regions experienced a decline in sales compared to a month earlier.
Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 6.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million in November from a downwardly-revised 5.25 million in October. Sales dropped to their lowest annual pace since May (4.91 million) but are above year-over-year levels (up 2.1 percent from last November) for the second straight month.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says sales activity was choppy throughout the country in November and housing inventory began its seasonal decline. “Fewer people bought homes last month despite interest rates being at their lowest levels of the year,” he said. “The stock market swings in October may have impacted some consumers’ psyches and therefore led to fewer November closings. Furthermore, rising home values are causing more investors to retreat from the market.”
The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in November was $205,300, which is 5.0 percent above November 2013. This marks the 33rd consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.
Total housing inventory3 at the end of November fell 6.7 percent to 2.09 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace – unchanged from last month. Despite the tightening in supply, unsold inventory remains 2.0 percent higher than a year ago, when there were 2.05 million existing homes available for sale.
“Lagging homebuilding activity continues to hamstring overall housing supply and is still too low in relation to this year’s promising job growth,” says Yun. “Much faster price and rent appreciation – easily exceeding wage growth – will occur next year unless new construction picks up measurably.”
All-cash sales were 25 percent of transactions in November, down from 27 percent in October and 32 percent in November of last year.
Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 15 percent of homes in November, unchanged from last month and below November 2013 (19 percent). Sixty-one percent of investors paid cash in November.
The percent share of first-time buyers in November climbed to 31 percent, up from October (29 percent) and is the highest share since October 2012 (also 31 percent). First-time buyers have represented an average of 29 percent of buyers through November of this year.
NAR President Chris Polychron, executive broker with 1st Choice Realty in Hot Springs, Ark., says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s new low downpayment program should improve access to credit for responsible buyers. “NAR applauds Fannie and Freddie’s commitment to homeownership by serving creditworthy borrowers who lack the resources for substantial downpayments plus closing costs with its new downpayment program,” he said. “The new program mitigates risk with strong underwriting and ensures that responsible buyers have access to safe and affordable mortgage credit. Furthermore, NAR believes lenders must do their part to ensure loans are prudently underwritten and are made available to qualified borrowers.”
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage in November dropped to 4.00 percent, its lowest level since May 2013 (3.54 percent), and down from 4.04 percent in October.
Distressed sales4 – foreclosures and short sales – were unchanged in November from October (9 percent) and remained in the single digits for the fourth month this year; they were 14 percent a year ago. Six percent of November sales were foreclosures and 3 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 17 percent below market value in November (15 percent in October), while short sales were discounted 13 percent (10 percent in October).
Properties typically stayed on the market in November longer (65 days) than last month (63 days) and a year ago (56 days). Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 116 days in November, while foreclosures sold in 65 days and non-distressed homes took 63 days. Thirty-two percent of homes sold in November were on the market for less than a month.
Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales dropped 6.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.33 million in November from 4.62 million in October, but remain 2.4 percent above the 4.23 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $206,200 in November, up 5.6 percent from November 2013.
Existing condominium and co-op sales declined 4.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 600,000 units in November from 630,000 in October, and are unchanged from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $199,000 in November, which is 1.2 percent higher than a year ago.
November existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 4.2 percent to an annual rate of 680,000, but are still 4.6 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $246,100, which is 1.3 percent above a year ago.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales fell 8.9 percent to an annual level of 1.13 million in November, and are now 1.7 percent below November 2013. The median price in the Midwest was $160,500, up 7.0 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the South decreased 3.2 percent to an annual rate of 2.09 million in November, but remain 5.0 percent above November 2013. The median price in the South was $176,500, up 5.2 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West dropped 9.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.03 million in November, and remain 1.0 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $292,700, which is 3.5 percent above November 2013.
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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.
1Existing-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 rebenchmarks 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.
2The 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.
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 (prior to 1999, single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).
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.
4Distressed 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.
Realtor.com®, NAR’s listing site, posts metro area median listing price and inventory data at: www.realtor.com/data-portal/Real-Estate-Statistics.aspx.
The Pending Home Sales Index for November will be released December 31, and existing-home sales for December is scheduled for January 23; release times are 10:00 a.m. EST.