August Existing-Home Sales Leap Despite Headwinds

Existing-home sales increased in August, even with ongoing tight credit and appraisal problems, along with regional disruptions created by Hurricane Irene, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Monthly gains were seen in all regions.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 7.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million in August from an upwardly revised 4.67 million in July, and are 18.6 percent higher than the 4.24 million unit level in August 2010.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there are some positive market fundamentals. “Some of the improvement in August may result from sales that were delayed in preceding months, but favorable affordability conditions and rising rents are underlying motivations,” he said. “Investors were more active in absorbing foreclosed properties. In additional to bargain hunting, some investors are in the market to hedge against higher inflation.”

Investors accounted for 22 percent of purchase activity in August, up from 18 percent in July and 21 percent in August 2010. First-time buyers purchased 32 percent of homes in August, unchanged from July; they were 31 percent in August 2010.

All-cash sales accounted for 29 percent of transactions in August, unchanged from July; they were 28 percent in August 2010; investors account for the bulk of cash purchases.

“We had some disruptions from Hurricane Irene in the closing weekend of August, when many sales normally are finalized, along the Eastern seaboard and in New England,” Yun said. “As a result, the Northeast saw the smallest sales gain in August, and some general impact is expected in September with widespread flooding from Tropical Storm Lee. Aberrations in housing data are possible over the next couple months as markets recover from disrupted closings and storm damage.”

Yun said an extremely important issue currently is the renewal and availability of the National Flood Insurance Program, scheduled to expire at the end of this month. “About one out of 10 homes in this country need flood insurance to get a mortgage, and we would see significant negative market impacts without it,” he said.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.27 percent in August, down from 4.55 percent in July; the rate was 4.43 percent in August 2010. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed rate fell to a record low 4.09 percent.

NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., said the market is remarkably affordable for people with secure jobs, good credit and long-term plans. “All year, the relationship between home prices, mortgage interest rates and family income has been hovering at historic highs, meaning the best housing affordability conditions in a generation,” he said.

“The biggest factors keeping home sales from a healthy recovery are mortgages being denied to creditworthy buyers, and appraised valuations below the negotiated price. Buyers may be able to find more favorable credit terms with community and small regional banks, and Realtors® can often give buyers advice to help them overcome some of the financing obstacles,” Phipps said.

Contract failures – cancellations caused largely by declined mortgage applications or failures in loan underwriting from appraised values coming in below the negotiated price – were reported by 18 percent of NAR members in August, up from 16 percent July and 9 percent in August 2010.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $168,300 in August, which is 5.1 percent below August 2010. Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales typically sold at deep discounts – accounted for 31 percent of sales in August, compared with 29 percent in July and 34 percent in August 2010.

Total housing inventory at the end of August fell 3.0 percent to 3.58 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 9.5-month supply in July.

Single-family home sales rose 8.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million in August from 4.12 million in July, and are 20.2 percent above the 3.72 million pace in August 2010.

The median existing single-family home price was $168,400 in August, which is 5.4 percent below a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 1.8 percent a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 560,000 in August from 550,000 in July, and are 8.3 percent higher than the 517,000-unit level one year ago. The median existing condo price was $167,500 in August, down 3.3 percent from August 2010.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast increased 2.7 percent to an annual pace of 770,000 in August and are 10.0 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $244,100, which is 5.1 percent below August 2010.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 3.8 percent in August to a level of 1.09 million and are 26.7 percent above August 2010. The median price in the Midwest was $141,700, down 3.5 percent from a year ago.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 5.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.94 million in August and are 16.9 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $151,000, which is 0.8 percent below August 2010.

Existing-home sales in the West jumped 18.3 percent to an annual pace of 1.23 million in August and are 20.6 percent higher than August 2010. The median price in the West was $189,400, down 13.0 percent from a year ago.

Source: NAR; Daily Real Estate News (September 21, 2011); Blog distribution provided by Kenneth Bargers and Bargers Solutions, a proud member of Pilkerton Realtors, residential real estate services located in Nashville, Tennessee

April Existing-Home Sales Ease

Existing-home sales slipped  in April, although the market has managed six gains in the past nine months,  according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, eased 0.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.05 million in April from a downwardly revised 5.09 million in March, and are 12.9 percent below a 5.80 million pace in April 2010; sales surged in April and May of 2010 in response to the home buyer tax credit.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the market is underperforming. “Given the great affordability conditions, job creation, and pent-up demand, home sales should be stronger,” he said. “Although existing-home sales are expected to trend up unevenly through next year, unnecessarily tight credit is continuing to restrain the market, along with a steady level of low appraisals that result in contract cancellations.”

Obstacles to Recovery

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows 11 percent of REALTORS® report a contract was cancelled in April from an appraisal coming in below the price negotiated between a buyer and seller, 10 percent had a contract delayed, and 14 percent said a contract was renegotiated to a lower sales price as a result of a low appraisal.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 4.84 percent in April, unchanged from March; the rate was 5.10 percent in April 2010.

“Although sales are clearly up from the cyclical lows of last summer, home sales are being held back 15 to 20 percent due to the very restrictive loan underwriting standards,” Yun said.

All-cash transactions stood at 31 percent in April, down from a record level of 35 percent in March; they were 26 percent in March 2010. Investors account for the bulk of cash purchases.

NAR President Ron Phipps said the lending community needs to return to sensible standards. “We want to ensure that qualified buyers will be able to own their property on a sustained basis from a sound credit evaluation, but banks needn’t be so stingy as to only lend to those with the highest credit scores,” he said.

“Very high shares of cash purchases, and high credit score requirements, have led to historically low default rates among home buyers over the past two years. This trend implies a gulf is opening between those who can and cannot have access to the American dream of home ownership,” Phipps said. “At the same time, existing guidelines from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae must be fully implemented so all appraisals are done by valuators with local expertise.”

Price Stability

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $163,700 in April, which is 5.0 percent below April 2010. Distressed homes — typically sold at a discount of about 20 percent — accounted for 37 percent of sales in April, down from 40 percent in March. They were 33 percent in April 2010.

“Home values, despite month-to-month volatility, have been remarkably stable in the range of $160,000 to $170,000 for the past three years,” Yun said. “Stable home prices in turn will steadily lower loan default rates, including strategic defaults.”

Total housing inventory at the end of April increased 9.9 percent to 3.87 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from an 8.3-month supply in March.

First-time buyers purchased 36 percent of homes in April, up from 33 percent in March; they were 49 percent in April 2010 when the tax credit was in place. Investors slipped to 20 percent in April from 22 percent of purchase activity in March; they were 15 percent in April 2010. The balance of sales was to repeat buyers, which were 44 percent in April.

Single-family home sales slipped 0.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.42 million in April from 4.44 million in March, and are 12.6 percent below the 5.06 million pace in April 2010. The median existing single-family home price was $163,200 in April, which is 5.4 percent below a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales fell 3.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 630,000 in April from 650,000 in March, and are 15.0 percent below the 741,000-unit level one year ago. The median existing condo price was $167,300 in April, down 2.3 percent from April 2010.

Regional Performance

Existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 7.5 percent to an annual pace of 740,000 in April and are 32.1 percent below a year-ago surge. The median price in the Northeast was $225,400, which is 7.3 percent below April 2010.

Existing-home sales in the Midwestrose 5.7 percent in April to a level of 1.12 million but are 16.4 percent below a cyclical peak in April 2010. The median
price in the Midwest was $133,200, down 5.1 percent from a year ago.

In the South, existing-home sales declined 4.1 percent to an annual pace of 1.95 million in April and are 9.3 percent below a year ago. The median price in the South was $142,800, which is 4.1 percent lower than April 2010.

Existing-home sales in the West slipped 1.6 percent to an annual level of 1.24 million in April and are 0.8 percent below April 2010. The median price in the West was $203,400, down 6.1 percent from a year ago.

Source: NAR; Blog distribution provided by Kenneth Bargers and Bargers Solutions, a proud member of Pilkerton Realtors, residential real estate services located in Nashville, Tennessee

Existing-Home Sales Rise in Most States

Existing-home sales continued to recover in the first quarter with gains in 49 states and the District of Columbia, while 22 percent of metropolitan areas saw prices rise from a year ago, according to the latest survey by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. 

Total state existing-home sales, including single-family homes and condos, rose 8.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.14 million in the first quarter from 4.75 million in the fourth quarter, and are only 0.8 percent below a 5.18 million pace during the same period in 2010.

Also in the first quarter, the median existing single-family home price rose in 34 out of 153 metropolitan statistical areas from the first quarter of 2010, including four with double-digit increases; one was unchanged and 118 areas showed price declines. 

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said home prices are all over the map. “The reading of quarterly price data can be volatile because they are based on the types of homes that are sold during the quarter. When buyers principally purchase distressed properties in a given market, the recorded prices will be very low, which is what we’re seeing now in much of the country,” he said. “Annual price data provides a better guide about the direction of the market in those areas.” 

Distressed Sales Put Pressure on Prices 

The national median existing single-family home price was $158,700 in the first quarter, down 4.6 percent from $166,400 in the first quarter of 2010. The median is where half sold for more and half sold for less. Distressed homes typically sold at a discount of about 20 percent, accounted for 39 percent of first quarter sales, up from 36 percent a year earlier. 

Yun said lower priced homes have seen the best sales performance. “The biggest sales increase has been in the lower price ranges, which are popular with investors and cash buyers,” he said. “The preponderance of sales activity at the lower end is bringing down the median price, so what we’re seeing is the result of a change in the composition of home sales.” 

Although sales are slightly below a year ago, the volume of homes sold for $100,000 or less in the first quarter was 8.9 percent higher than the first quarter of 2010, creating a downward skew on the overall median price. 

The share of all-cash home purchases rose to 33 percent in the first quarter from 27 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

More Investors in the Market 

Investors accounted for 21 percent of first quarter transactions, up from 18 percent a year ago, while first-time buyers purchased 32 percent of homes, down from 42 percent in the first quarter of 2010 when a tax credit was in place. Repeat buyers accounted for a 47 percent market share in the first quarter, up from 40 percent a year earlier. 

“The rising sales trend in nearly all states is a part of the healing process to clear off inventory. Sales need to rise before prices can firm up,” Yun added. 

NAR President Ron Phipps said strong sales of distressed homes are exactly what the market needs. “The good news is foreclosures, which account for two-thirds of all distressed homes sold, are selling very quickly,” he said. “Short sales still take far too long to get lender approval, but it appears the inventory of distressed property is peaking and will be gradually declining next year. This means the market should slowly return to balance. We are encouraged that recent home buyers are having exceptionally low default rates.” 

According to Freddie Mac, the national commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.85 percent in the first quarter, up from a record low 4.41 percent in the fourth quarter, but below the 5.00 percent average in the first quarter of 2010. 

A Closer Look at Price Trends 

In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices – covering changes in 53 metro areas – showed the national median existing-condo price was $152,900 in the first quarter, down 10.4 percent from the first quarter of 2010. Eleven metros showed increases in the median condo price from a year ago, one was unchanged and 41 areas had declines. 

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast increased 0.8 percent in the first quarter to a level of 800,000 but are 7.3 percent below the first quarter of 2010. The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast declined 5.0 percent to $234,100 in the first quarter from a year ago. 

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 7.9 percent in the first quarter to a pace of 1.09 million but are 5.0 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest fell 5.3 percent to $124,400 in the first quarter from the same period in 2010. 

In the South, existing-home sales increased 8.5 percent in the first quarter to an annual rate of 1.96 million and are 2.8 percent higher than the first quarter of 2010. The median existing single-family home price in the South slipped 0.6 percent to $141,800 in the first quarter from a year earlier. 

Existing-home sales in the West jumped 13.5 percent in the first quarter to a level of 1.29 million and are 2.1 percent above a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the West fell 4.7 percent to $197,400 in the first quarter from the first quarter of 2010. 

Source: NAR; Blog distribution provided by Kenneth Bargers and Bargers Solutions residential real estate services, a proud member of Pilkerton Realtors, located in Nashville, Tennessee

Existing-Home Sales Rise 5.6%

Existing-home sales got back on an upward path in November, resuming a growth trend since bottoming in July, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. 

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, rose 5.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million in November from 4.43 million in October, but are 27.9 percent below the cyclical peak of 6.49 million in November 2009, which was the initial deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit. 

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, is hopeful for 2011. “Continuing gains in home sales are encouraging, and the positive impact of steady job creation will more than trump some negative impact from a modest rise in mortgage interest rates, which remain historically favorable,” he said. 

Yun added that home buyers are responding to improved affordability conditions. “The relationship recently between mortgage interest rates, home prices and family income has been the most favorable on record for buying a home since we started measuring in 1970,” he said. “Therefore, the market is recovering, and we should trend up to a healthy, sustainable level in 2011.” 

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $170,600 in November, up 0.4 percent from November 2009. Distressed homes have been a fairly stable market share, accounting for 33 percent of sales in November; they were 34 percent in October and 33 percent in November 2009. 

Foreclosures, which accounted for two-thirds of the distressed sales share, sold at a median discount of 15 percent in November, while short sales were discounted 10 percent in comparison with traditional home sales. 

Inventory Drops 

Total housing inventory at the end of November fell 4.0 percent to 3.71 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 10.5-month supply in October. 

NAR President Ron Phipps said good buying opportunities will continue. “Traditionally there are far fewer buyers competing for properties at this time of the year, so serious buyers have a lot of opportunities during the winter months,” he said. “Buyers will enjoy favorable affordability conditions into the new year, although mortgage rates are expected to gradually rise as 2011 progresses.” 

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.30 percent in November from a record low 4.23 percent in October; the rate was 4.88 percent in November 2009. 

“In the short term, mortgage interest rates should hover just above recent record lows, while home prices have generally stabilized following declines from 2007 through 2009,” Yun said. “Although mortgage interest rates have ticked up in recent weeks, overall conditions remain extremely favorable for buyers who can obtain credit.” 

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 32 percent of homes in November, the same as in October, but are below a 51 percent share in November 2009 from the surge to beat the initial deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit. 

Investors accounted for 19 percent of transactions in November, also unchanged from October, but are up from 12 percent in November 2009; the balance of sales were to repeat buyers. All-cash sales were at 31 percent in November, up from 29 percent in October and 19 percent a year ago. “The elevated level of all-cash transactions continues to reflect tight credit market conditions,” Yun said. 

Single-Family Homes Sales Jump 

Single-family home sales rose 6.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.15 million in November from 3.89 million in October, but are 27.3 percent below a surge to a 5.71 million cyclical peak in November 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $171,300 in November, which is 1.2 percent above a year ago. 

Existing condominium and co-op sales declined 1.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000 in November from 540,000 in October, and are 32.2 percent below the 782,000-unit tax credit rush one year ago. The median existing condo price was $165,300 in November, down 5.5 percent from November 2009. “At the current stage of the housing cycle, condos are offering better deals for bargain hunters,” Yun said. 

Here’s a look at how existing-home sales performed by region

  • Northeast: Existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 2.7 percent to an annual pace of 770,000 in November but are 33.0 percent below the cyclical peak in November 2009. The median price in the Northeast was $242,500, which is 9.2 percent higher than a year ago.
  • Midwest: Existing-home sales in the Midwest increased 6.4 percent in November to a level of 1.00 million but are 35.1 percent below the year-ago surge. The median price in the Midwest was $138,900, down 1.1 percent from November 2009.
  • South: In the South, existing-home sales rose 2.9 percent to an annual pace of 1.76 million in November but are 26.1 percent below the tax credit surge in November 2009. The median price in the South was $148,000, down 2.6 percent from a year ago.
  • West: Existing-home sales in the West jumped 11.7 percent to an annual level of 1.15 million in November but are 19.0 percent below the sales peak in November 2009. The median price in the West was $212,500, up 0.4 percent from a year ago.

Source: NAR (122210); blog distribution by Kenneth Bargers and Bargers Solutions residential real estate services located in Nashville, Tennessee.

A National Look…Existing-Home Sales Decline in October 2010

Existing-home sales retreated in October on the heels of two strong monthly gains, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. 

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, declined 2.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million in October from 4.53 million in September, and are 25.9 percent below the 5.98-million-unit level in October 2009 when sales were surging prior to the initial deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit. Year-to-date there were 4.149 million existing-home sales, down 2.9 percent from 4.272 million at this time in 2009. 

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the recent sales pattern can be expected to continue. “The housing market is experiencing an uneven recovery, and a temporary foreclosure stoppage in some states is likely to have held back a number of completed sales. Still, sales activity is clearly off the bottom and is attempting to settle into normal, sustainable levels,” he said. “Based on current and improving job market conditions, and from attractive affordability conditions, sales should steadily improve to healthier levels of above 5 million by spring of next year.” 

Tight Credit Hurting the Market

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.23 percent in October from 4.35 percent in September; the rate was 4.95 percent in October 2009. 

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $170,500 in October, down 0.9 percent from October 2009. Distressed homes accounted for 34 percent of sales in October, compared with 35 percent in September and 30 percent of sales in October 2009. 

NAR President Ron Phipps clarified that several factors are restraining a housing recovery, even with great affordability conditions. “We’ll likely see some impact from the foreclosure moratorium in the months ahead, but overly tight credit is making it difficult for some creditworthy borrowers to qualify for a mortgage, and we are continuing to deal with a notable share of appraisals coming in below a price negotiated between a buyer and seller,” he said. 

“A return to common sense loan underwriting standards would go a long way toward achieving responsible, sustainable home ownership. In addition, all home valuations should be made by competent professionals with local expertise and full access to market data – there remains an elevated level of appraisals that fail to provide accurate valuation, which is causing a steady level of sales to be cancelled or postponed,” Phipps said. 

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows 10 percent of REALTORS® in October report they had a contract cancelled as a result of a low appraisal, and 13 percent report they had a contract delayed; 16 percent said a contract was negotiated to a lower sales price as a result of a low appraisal. According to FHFA, Fannie- and Freddie-backed mortgages that were recently originated show an outstanding performance, even better than during the pre-housing bubble years. 

“A review of recently originated loans suggests that they have overly stringent underwriting standards, with only the highest creditworthy borrowers able to tap into historically low mortgage interest rates. There could be an upside surprise to sales activity if credit availability is opened to more qualified home buyers who are willing to stay well within budget,” Yun added. 

Inventory drops

Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 3.4 percent to 3.86 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 10.6-month supply in September. 

First-time buyers purchased 32 percent of homes in October, unchanged from September, but down from 50 percent a year ago during the initial surge for the first-time buyer tax credit. Investors accounted for 19 percent of transactions in October; they were 18 percent in September and 14 percent in October 2009; the balance of sales were to repeat buyers. All-cash sales were at 29 percent in October, unchanged from September but up from 20 percent a year ago. 

Single-family home sales declined 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.89 million in October from 3.97 million in September, and are 25.6 percent below the 5.23 million surge in October 2009. The median existing single-family home price was $171,100 in October, which is 0.5 percent below a year ago. 

Existing condominium and co-op sales fell 3.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 540,000 in October from 560,000 in September, and are 27.6 percent below the 746,000-unit sales rush a year ago. The median existing condo price was $166,000 in October, down 4.2 percent from October 2009. 

By Region

Existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 1.3 percent to an annual pace of 750,000 in October and are 27.2 percent below the surge in October 2009. The median price in the Northeast was $240,200, which is 1.9 percent higher than a year ago. 

Existing-home sales in the Midwest slipped 1.1 percent in October to a level of 940,000 and are 32.4 percent below the tax credit rush one year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $139,500, down 3.6 percent from October 2009. 

In the South, existing-home sales fell 3.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.71 million in October and are 24.0 percent below the year-ago surge. The median price in the South was $148,700, down 0.7 percent from October 2009. 

Existing-home sales in the West declined 1.9 percent to an annual level of 1.03 million in October and are 21.4 percent below the sales rush in October 2009. The median price in the West was $209,300, which is 4.8 percent below a year ago. 

Source:  NAR; blog distribution provided by Kenneth Bargers and Bargers Solutions real estate services located in Nashville, Tennessee.