August 22, 2018
Existing-home sales slowed for the fourth consecutive month in July, reaching their most sluggish pace in more than two years, the National Association of REALTORS® reports. The West was the only major U.S. region to see an increase in sales last month.
Total existing-home sales, which include completed transactions for single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and co-ops, fell 0.7 percent month over month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.34 million in July. Sales are now 1.5 percent lower than a year ago.
Rising home prices may be prompting would-be home buyers to pull away, says NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Led by a notable decrease in closings in the Northeast, existing-home sales trailed off again last month, sliding to their slowest pace since February 2016 at 5.21 million [units],” Yun says. “Too many would-be buyers are either being priced out or are deciding to postpone their search until more homes in their price range come onto the market.”
Yun notes that a steady climb in home prices over the past year—along with an uptick in mortgage rates this spring—is cooling sales. “This weakening in affordability has put the most pressure on would-be first-time buyers in recent months, who continue to represent only around a third of sales despite a very healthy economy and labor market,” he says. First-time buyers comprised 32 percent of sales in July, down from 33 percent a year ago.
Here’s a closer look at some key indicators from NAR’s July housing report:
*Home prices: The median existing-home price for all housing types was $296,600, a 4.5 percent increase from a year ago.
*Inventories: Total housing inventory fell 0.5 percent to 1.92 million existing homes available for sale, unchanged from a year ago. At the current sales pace, unsold inventory is at a 4.3-month supply.
*Days on the market: Fifty-five percent of homes sold were on the market for less than a month. Properties typically stayed on the market for 27 days, down from 30 days a year ago. “Listings continue to go under contract in under a month, which highlights the feedback from REALTORS® that buyers are swiftly snatching up moderately-priced properties,” Yun says. “Existing supply is still not at a healthy level, and new-home construction is not keeping up to meet demand.”
*All-cash sales: All-cash transactions compromised 20 percent of sales, up from 19 percent a year ago. Individual investors tend to account for the biggest bulk of cash sales. They purchased 13 percent of homes, unchanged from a year ago.
*Distressed sales: Foreclosures and short sales accounted for 3 percent of sales, down from 5 percent a year ago. Broken out, 2 percent of sales were foreclosures, and 1 percent were short sales.