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Existing-home sales surge in TRID aftermath

NAR President: Near-term challenges still prevalent

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The immediate impact of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosures rule in October is quickly coming to light as existing-home sales bounce back after November’s steep drop.

According to the latest report from the National Association of Realtors, more buyers reached the market before the end of the year, and the delayed closings due to TRID pushed a portion of November's would-be transactions into last month's figure.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, skyrocketed 14.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.46 million in December from 4.76 million in November.

This is a significant jump compared to November’s 10.5% drop in total existing-home sales.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said December's robust bounce back caps off the best year of existing sales (5.26 million) since 2006 (6.48 million).

"While the carryover of November's delayed transactions into December contributed greatly to the sharp increase, the overall pace taken together indicates sales these last two months maintained the healthy level of activity seen in most of 2015," he said. "Additionally, the prospect of higher mortgage rates in coming months and warm November and December weather allowed more homes to close before the end of the year."

This news doesn’t come as much of a shock though. At the beginning of the year, Auction.com’s Residential Real Estate Nowcast predicted that existing-home sales would recover after a weak report in November due to the implementation of TRID.

The California Association of Realtors’ existing, single-family home sales report also foreshadowed this report since it posted similar findings.

According to CAR, existing, single-family home sales jumped 9.6% in the month of December, as many sales that were pushed out of November thanks to TRID-related delays closed in December.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in December grew to $224,100, up 7.6% from December 2014 ($208,200). This increase marks the 46th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of December dropped 12.3% to 1.79 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 3.8% lower than a year ago (1.86 million). Meanwhile, unsold inventory is at a 3.9-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 5.1 months in November and the lowest since January 2005 (3.6 months).

Auction.com Chief Economist Peter Muoio predicted in a report that low inventory and affordability concerns would continue to post challenges that could further restrain home sales going into 2016.

The percent share of first-time buyers was at 32% in December (matching the highest share since August), up from 30% in November and 29% a year ago. First-time buyers in all of 2015 represented an average of 30%, up from 29% in both 2014 and 2013.

"First-time buyers were for the most part held back once again in 2015 by rising rents and home prices, competition from vacation and investment buyers and supply shortages," said Yun. "While these headwinds show little signs of abating, the cumulative effect of strong job growth in recent years and young renters' overwhelming interest to own a home should lead to a modest uptick in first-time buyer activity in 2016."

All-cash sales were 24% of transactions in December (27% in November) and are down from 26% a year ago.

In addition, individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 15% of homes in December, down from both from 16% in November and 17% a year ago. Sixty-four percent of investors paid cash in December.

On the foreclosure side, distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – fell to 8% in December, down from 9% in November and 11% a year ago.

Properties typically stayed on the market for 58 days in December, an increase from 54 days in November but below the 66 days in December 2014.

Broken up regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast grew 8.7% to an annual rate of 750,000, and are now 11.9% above a year ago, compared to the Midwest, where existing-home sales jumped 10.9% to an annual rate of 1.22 million in December, and are now 9.9% above December 2014.

Existing-home sales in the South surged 14.6% to an annual rate of 2.27 million in December, and are now 4.6% above December 2014, as existing-home sales in the West also jumped, rising 23.2% to an annual rate of 1.22 million in December, and are now 8.9% higher than a year ago.

"December's rebound in sales is reason for cautious optimism that the work to prepare for Know Before You Owe is paying off," said Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida.

"However, our data is still showing longer closing timeframes, which is a reminder that the near-term challenges we anticipated are still prevalent. NAR advised members to extend the time horizon on their purchase contracts to address this concern, and we'll continue to work with our industry partners to ensure 2016 is a success for consumers, homeowners and Realtors alike,” Salomone said. 

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