September existing-home sales fell slightly from the previous month, but remain well above year-ago levels as prices continue to escalate on new demand in key real estate markets.
The National Association of Realtors said existing-home sales declined 1.7% from August to September, with 4.75 million units sold last month, down from 4.83 million in August. Still, September numbers are up 11% from the 4.28 million units sold a year ago.
Overall, real estate is performing better than it was in 2011 with September home prices recording their seventh consecutive month of year-over-year increases, NAR said.
"Despite occasional month-to-month setbacks, we're experiencing a genuine recovery," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist with NAR. "More people are attempting to buy homes than are able to qualify for mortgages, and recent price increases are not deterring buyer interest. Rather, inventory shortages are limiting sales, notably in parts of the West."
The national median price for an existing home shot up 11.3% from last year to $183,900 in September, making it the seventh consecutive month of annual price increases.
Distressed properties, including foreclosures and short sales, represented 24% of all September sales, an increase from 22% in August and down from 30% a year ago.
Foreclosures generally sold at a 21% discount while short sales sold 13% under market value in September, NAR said.
The country's total pipeline of existing inventory fell 3.3% in September to 2.32 million homes, which reflects a 5.9-month supply. Today's inventory level is 20% below year ago levels when the nation carried an eight-month supply.
"The shrinkage in housing supply is supporting ongoing price growth, a pattern that could accelerate unless home builders robustly ramp up production," Yun said.
Homes also are spending less time on the market, with the median listing time now running 70 days, down from 101 days in September of 2011. About 32% of homes sold last month spent less than 30 days on the market. Nineteen percent remained listed for six months or longer.