Existing Home Sales Fall More Than Expected

Existing Home Sales Fall More Than Expected

Sales of previously owned homes reached 5.36 million sales on a seasonally adjusted annual basis and fell by 3.40 percent in October according to the National Association of Realtors®. Rising home prices and a shortage of available homes strained housing markets. Concerns over potentially higher mortgage rates may have sidelined home buyers as concerns over an anticipated rate hike by the Federal Reserve persisted. Many analysts expect the Federal Reserve to raise rates at its December meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, which oversees the Fed’s monetary policy. Raising the target federal funds rate would cause consumer interest rates and mortgage rates to increase as well.

Shortage of Available Homes Could Lead to “Inventory Crunch” Next Spring

Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors®, cited concerns over the shortage of homes for sale. He said that a persisting shortage of available homes could lead to an inventory crunch during next spring’s peak selling season.

Home prices increased by 5.80 percent year over year to an average of $219.600. Rising home prices impacted decreasing sales in the West and South while home sales held steady in the Northeast, where home price growth was the slowest.

First-time Home Buyers Lag in Home Purchase Numbers

Although first-time buyers represented 31 percent of home buyers in October, which was a two percent increase over September’s participation, first-time home buyers usually represent approximately 40 percent of buyers of existing homes. First-time buyers are important to housing markets as they generate sales of homes by homeowners wishing to move up or relocate.

First-time buyers can be adversely affected by home prices and mortgage rates; a shortage of first-time buyers could create further slowdowns in home sales. There is good news due to steady job growth, which is important to those who are considering buying a home. Strict mortgage credit requirements are showing signs of relaxing and home builders are encouraged by current and future housing market conditions.

The National Association of Realtors® forecasts that 2015 sales of pre-owned homes at a level of 5.3 million sales, which would be the highest sales rate since 2007. Sales of existing homes are expected to rise by 3 percent in 2016, but mortgage rates and affordability will continue to influence actual sales and overall health of housing markets in the New Year.

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Hit Second Highest Level in 8 Years

Sales of Pre-Owned Homes Hit Second Highest Level in 8 YearsHousing markets show continued strength as the National Association of Realtors® reported that sales of existing homes reached their second highest level since February 2007. Sales of pre-owned homes increased by 4.70 percent and reached 5.55 million sales on a seasonally adjusted annual basis against analyst expectations of 5.34 million sales and August’s reading of 5.30 million sales of previously owned homes.

August’s reading for existing home sales was revised downward from 5.31 million sales. Economists said that August’s lower than expected sales of existing homes may have been influenced by volatility in financial markets and concerns over mortgage rates may have kept would-be home buyers on the sidelines, but September’s reading showed that August’s dismal readings were an aberration rather than a trend.

Higher Home Sales Driven by Low Mortgage Rates

Low mortgage rates are making homes more affordable, a fact that’s reflected by current inventories of available homes. At the current sales pace, there is a 4.8 month supply of available homes as compared to September 2014’s reading of a 5.40 month supply of available homes. 

In addition to average mortgage rates hovering below four percent, industry advocates s cited stronger job markets and also indicated that a slight easing of mortgage credit standards are driving home sales. Increased demand for homes is causing home prices to rise. The national average price of a home rose to $221,900, which was 6.10 percent higher than for September 2014.

Housing Recovery: 2015 Could Show Best Results Since 2007

Lawrence Yun Chief Economist for the National Association of Realtors® said that although some economists expect home sales to cool down before the end of 2015, it’s possible that 2015 will end with the best home sales figures since 2007. Mr. Yun said characterized the housing recovery as “a slow steady process” and said “This year, it’s finally coming out.”

On the other hand, some analysts are skeptical about how housing markets can maintain their momentum into 2016. First-time buyers are losing market share in home sales, with their participation rate decreasing from 32 percent in August to 29 percent in September. First-time buyers play an integral role in housing markets, as their purchase of starter homes allows first-time homeowners to buy larger homes. First-time buyers also represent new demand for homes, which is essential to expanding housing markets.