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 sales, 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 price 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 inventory 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 sales – 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.
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.