WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Dec 19, 2013) - Existing-home sales fell in November, although median prices continue to show strong year-over-year growth, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, dropped 4.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.90 million in November from 5.12 million in October, and are 1.2 percent below the 4.96 million-unit pace in November 2012. This is the first time in 29 months that sales were below year-ago levels.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the market is being squeezed. "Home sales are hurt by higher mortgage interest rates, constrained inventory and continuing tight credit," he said. "There is a pent-up demand for both rental and owner-occupied housing as household formation will inevitably burst out, but the bottleneck is in limited housing supply, due to the slow recovery in new home construction. As such, rents are rising at the fastest pace in five years, while annual home prices are rising at the highest rate in eight years."
The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $196,300 in November, up 9.4 percent from November 2012. Distressed homes3 -- foreclosures and short sales -- accounted for 14 percent of November sales, unchanged from October; they were 22 percent in November 2012. A smaller share of distressed sales is contributing to price growth.
Nine percent of November sales were foreclosures, and 5 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 17 percent below market value in November, while short sales were discounted 13 percent.
Total housing inventory at the end of November declined 0.9 percent to 2.09 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.1-month supply4 at the current sales pace, compared with 4.9 months in October. Unsold inventory is 5.0 percent above a year ago, when there was a 4.8-month supply.
The median time on market for all homes was 56 days in November, up from 54 days in October, but well below the 70 days on market in November 2012. Short sales were on the market for a median of 120 days, while foreclosures typically sold in 59 days, and non-distressed homes took 55 days. Thirty-five percent of homes sold in November were on the market for less than a month.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.26 percent in November from 4.19 percent in October; the rate was 3.35 percent in November 2012.
NAR President Steve Brown, co-owner of Irongate, Inc., Realtors® in Dayton, Ohio, noted that new rules defining the Qualified Mortgage will be going into effect soon. "New underwriting rules to protect borrowers, effective in January, will prohibit many loan features, set tighter limits on the amount of debt a borrower can have and still get a mortgage, and require that lenders accurately measure a borrower's ability to repay," he said.
"This means that qualified borrowers are getting a loan that they are very likely to be able to repay, but some borrowers may wind up paying much more for their mortgage, or not get a loan at all due to the tougher standards," Brown said. "The new rules may tighten credit too much, but we're hopeful regulators will make adjustments if this proves to be true."
First-time buyers accounted for 28 percent of purchases in November, unchanged from October; they were 30 percent in November 2012.
All-cash sales comprised 32 percent of transactions in November, up from 31 percent in October and 30 percent in November 2012. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 19 percent of homes in November, unchanged from October and from November 2012. Last month, seven out of 10 investors paid cash.
Single-family home sales fell 3.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.32 million in November from 4.49 million in October, and are 0.9 percent below the 4.36 million-unit level in November 2012. The median existing single-family home price was $196,200 in November, which is 9.4 percent above a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales dropped 7.9 percent to an annual rate of 580,000 units in November from 630,000 units in October, and are 3.3 percent lower than the 600,000-unit pace a year ago. The median existing condo price was $197,400 in November, up 10.0 percent from November 2012.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 3.0 percent to an annual rate of 650,000 in November, but are 6.6 percent above November 2012. The median price in the Northeast was $242,900, up 5.7 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest fell 4.1 percent in November to a pace of 1.17 million, but are unchanged from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $151,100, which is 6.7 percent higher than November 2012.
In the South, existing-home sales declined 2.4 percent to an annual level of 2.01 million in November, but are 1.0 percent above November 2012. The median price in the South was $168,700, up 7.7 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West dropped 8.5 percent to a pace of 1.07 million in November, and are 10.1 percent below a year ago, in part from constrained inventory conditions. The median price in the West was $284,400, up 16.5 percent from November 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. For additional commentary and consumer information, visit www.houselogic.com and http://retradio.com.
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 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 additional data is received.
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.
3Distressed 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.
4Total 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).
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 30 and existing-home sales for December is scheduled for January 23; release times are 10:00 a.m. EST.
Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org. This and other news releases are posted in the "News, Blogs and Videos" tab on the website. Statistical data in this release, as well as other tables and surveys, are posted in the "Research and Statistics" tab.