WASHINGTON, Existing-home sales inched up in August, marking two consecutive months of growth, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Three of the four major regions reported a rise in sales, while the West recorded a decline last month
Total existing-home sales1, https://www.nar.realtor/existing-home-sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 1.3% from July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million in August. Overall sales are up 2.6% from a year ago (5.35 million in August 2018).
Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, attributed the increase in sales to falling mortgage rates. “As expected, buyers are finding it hard to resist the current rates,” he said. “The desire to take advantage of these promising conditions is leading more buyers to the market.”
The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in August was $278,200, up 4.7% from August 2018 ($265,600). August’s price increase marks the 90th straight month of year-over-year gains.
“Sales are up, but inventory numbers remain low and are thereby pushing up home prices,” said Yun. “Home builders need to ramp up new housing, as the failure to increase construction will put home prices in danger of increasing at a faster pace than income.”
Total housing inventory3 at the end of August decreased to 1.86 million, down from 1.90 million existing-homes available for sale in July, and marking a 2.6% decrease from 1.91 million one year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.2 months in July and from the 4.3-month figure recorded in August 2018.
Properties typically remained on the market for 31 days in August, up from 29 days in July and in August of 2018. Forty-nine percent of homes sold in August were on the market for less than a month.
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 3.62% in August, down from 3.77% in July. The average commitment rate across all of 2018 was 4.54%.
“The Federal Reserve should have been bolder and made a deeper rate cut, given current low inflation rates,” said Yun. “The housing sector has been broadly underperforming but there is huge upward potential there that will help our overall economy grow.”
First-time buyers were responsible for 31% of sales in August, down from 32% in July and equal to the 31% recorded in August 2018. NAR’s 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in late 20184 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.
As the share of first-time buyers rose, individual investors or second-home buyers, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14% of homes in August 2019, up from 11% recorded in July and from 13% recorded in August a year ago. All-cash sales accounted for 19% of transactions in August, about equal to July’s percentage and moderately down from August 2018 (19% and 20%, respectively).
Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – represented 2% of sales in August, unchanged from July, but down from 3% in August 2018.
“Rates continue to be historically low, which is extremely beneficial for everyone buying or selling a home,” said NAR President John Smaby, a second-generation Realtor® from Edina, Minnesota, and broker at Edina Realty. “The new condominium loan policies, as well as other reforms NAR is pursuing within our housing finance system, will allow even more families and individuals in this country to reach the American Dream of homeownership.”
Compared to July, existing-home sales recorded in August rose in the Northeast, Midwest and South regions, but fell slightly in the West region. Compared to last year, August sales increased in each of the four major regions, with the greatest gain coming in the South. Median home prices rose from a year ago, except in the Northeast, with the Midwest showing the highest price increase.
August existing-home sales in the Northeast increased 7.6% to an annual rate of 710,000, a 1.4% rise from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $303,500, down 0.3% from August 2018.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales grew 3.1% to an annual rate of 1.31 million, which is a 2.3% increase from August 2018. The median price in the Midwest was $220,000, a 6.6% jump from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the South increased 0.9% to an annual rate of 2.33 million in August, up 3.6% from a year ago. The median price in the South was $240,300, up 5.4% from one year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West declined 3.4% to an annual rate of 1.14 million in August, 1.8% above a year ago. The median price in the West was $415,900, up 5.7% from August 2018.
Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.90 million in August, up from 4.84 million in July and up 2.9% from a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $280,700 in August 2019, up 4.7% from August 2018.
Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 590,000 units in August, 1.7% above the rate from the previous month and about equal to a year ago. The median existing condo price was $257,600 in August, which is up 5.2% from a year ago.
The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
For local information, please contact the local association of Realtors® for data from local multiple listing services (MLS). Local MLS data is the most accurate source of sales and price information in specific areas, although there may be differences in reporting methodology.
NOTE: NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index for August is scheduled for release on September 26, and Existing-Home Sales for September will be released October 22; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.
Information about NAR is available at www.nar.realtor. This and other news releases are posted in the newsroom under the “About NAR” tab. Statistical data in this release, as well as other tables and surveys, are posted in the “Research and Statistics” tab.
1 Existing-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% of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample – about 40% 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.
2 The 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.
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.
3 Total 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% of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).
4 Survey results represent owner-occupants and differ from separately reported monthly findings from NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, which include all types of buyers. Investors are under-represented in the annual study because survey questionnaires are mailed to the addresses of the property purchased and generally are not returned by absentee owners. Results include both new and existing homes.
5 Distressed 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 nar.realtor.