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Despite decrease, existing-home sales maintain healthy pace

NAR: “Cooldown in October was likely given”

Total existing-home sales decreased 3.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.36 million in October after last month’s giant uptick of 5.55 million, according to the latest report from the National Association of Relators.  

Total existing-home sales are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops.

However, despite the decrease, NAR said that existing-home sales in October were at a healthy pace but failed to keep up with September's jump. And despite last month's decline, sales are still 3.9% above a year ago (5.16 million).

In September, total existing-home sales increased 4.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.55 million in September from a slightly downwardly revised 5.30 million in August, and are now 8.8% above a year ago.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said a sales cooldown in October was likely given the pullback in contract signings the last couple of months.

"New and existing-home supply has struggled to improve so far this fall, leading to few choices for buyers and no easement of the ongoing affordability concerns still prevalent in some markets," he said.

"Furthermore, the mixed signals of slowing economic growth and volatility in the financial markets slightly tempered demand and contributed to the decreasing pace of sales," Yun said.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in October jumped to $219,600, increasing 5.8% above October 2014 ($207,500). This marked the 44th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of October marginally decreased, falling 2.3% to 2.14 million existing homes available for sale. This is 4.5% lower than a year ago (2.24 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.8-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.7 months in September.

Additionally, the percent share of first-time buyers slightly increased to 31% in October, up from 29% both in September and a year ago.

On the cash sales side, Yun said, "All-cash and investor sales are still somewhat elevated historically despite the diminishing number of distressed properties. With supply already meager at the lower-end of the price range, competition from these buyers only adds to the list of obstacles in the path for first-time buyers trying to reach the market."

All-cash sales were 24% of transactions in October (unchanged from September) and are down from 27% a year ago.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – dipped to 6% in October: the lowest since NAR began tracking in October 2008.

Broken up across the country, existing-home sales in the Northeast were at an annual rate of 760,000, unchanged from September and 8.6% above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast increased slight from a year ago, rising 1.3% from 2014 to $248,900.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales declined 0.8% to an annual rate of 1.30 million in October, but are 8.3% above October 2014. The median price in the Midwest jumped 5.7% from a year ago to $172,300.

Existing-home sales in the South decreased 3.2% to an annual rate of 2.14 million in October, but are still 0.5% above October 2014. The median price in the South was $188,800, up 6.2% from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West fell 8.7% to an annual rate of 1.16 million in October, but are still 2.7% above a year ago. The median price in the West was $319,000, which is 8.0% above October 2014.

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