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 First-time Buyers Provide Spark for Jump in U.S. Home Sales

First-time Buyers Provide Spark for Jump in U.S. Home Sales


According to the National Association of Realtors, with the aid by a greater share of sales to first-time buyers not seen in nearly four years, existing-home sales in the U.S. maintained their upward trajectory in June and increased for the fourth consecutive month. Only the Northeast saw a decline in closings in June, and sales to investors fell to their lowest overall share since July 2009.
 
Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, climbed 1.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million in June from a downwardly revised 5.51 million in May. After last month's gain, sales are now up 3.0 percent from June 2015 (5.41 million) and remain at their highest annual pace since February 2007 (5.79 million).
 
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Lawrence Yun

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the impressive four month streak of sales gains through June caps off a solid first half of 2016 for the housing market. "Existing sales rose again last month as more traditional buyers and fewer investors were able to close on a home despite many competitive areas with unrelenting supply and demand imbalances," he said. "Sustained job growth as well as this year's descent in mortgage rates is undoubtedly driving the appetite for home purchases."
 
Cautions Yun, "Looking ahead, it's unclear if this current sales pace can further accelerate as record high stock prices, near-record low mortgage rates and solid job gains face off against a dearth of homes available for sale and lofty home prices that keep advancing."
 
The median existing-home price for all housing types in June was $247,700, up 4.8 percent from June 2015 ($236,300). June's price increase marks the 52nd consecutive month of year-over-year gains and surpasses May's peak median sales price of $238,900.
 
Total housing inventory at the end of June dipped 0.9 percent to 2.12 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 5.8 percent lower than a year ago (2.25 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.6-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.7 months in May.
 
The share of first-time buyers was 33 percent in June, which is up from 30 percent in May and a year ago and is the highest since July 2012 (34 percent). Through the first six months of the year, first-time buyers have represented an average of 31 percent of buyers; they were 30 percent in all of 2015.
 
"The modest bump in June sales to first-time buyers can be attributed to mortgage rates near all-time lows and perhaps a hopeful indication that more affordable, lower-priced homes are beginning to make their way onto the market," adds Yun. "The odds of closing on a home are definitely higher right now for first-time buyers living in metro areas with tamer price growth and greater entry-level supply - particularly areas in the Midwest and parts of the South."
 
All-cash sales were 22 percent of transactions in June, unchanged from both May and a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 11 percent of homes in June (lowest since July 2009 at 9 percent), down from 13 percent in May and 12 percent a year ago. Sixty-four percent of investors paid cash in June. 
 
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased from 3.60 percent in May to 3.57 percent in June. Mortgage rates have now fallen four straight months and in June were the lowest since May 2013 (3.54 percent). The average commitment rate for all of 2015 was 3.85 percent.
 
NAR President Tom Salomone, broker-owner of Real Estate II Inc. in Coral Springs, Florida, says Realtors are thrilled that the U.S. Senate last week unanimously voted to pass H.R. 3700, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act. "At a time of historically low mortgage rates, this is a huge win for prospective first-time and low- to moderate-income buyers interested in purchasing a condo," he said. "Eliminating overly burdensome restrictions on condos will help more of these prospective buyers access financing and take advantage of this affordable entry point into homeownership."
 
Properties typically stayed on the market for 34 days in June, an increase from 32 days in May but unchanged from a year ago. Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 156 days in June, while foreclosures sold in 49 days and non-distressed homes took 30 days. Forty-eight percent of homes sold in June were on the market for less than a month.
 
Inventory data from Realtor.com reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in June were Wilson, N.C., and Jacksonville, N.C., both at a median of 22 days; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 28 days; and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, and Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., at 29 days.
 
Distressed sales - foreclosures and short sales - were 6 percent of sales in June, unchanged from May and down from 8 percent a year ago. Four percent of June sales were foreclosures (lowest since NAR began tracking in October 2008) and 2 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 11 percent below market value in June (12 percent in May), while short sales were discounted 18 percent (11 percent in May).
 
Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
 
Single-family home sales increased 0.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.92 million in June from 4.88 million in May, and are now 3.1 percent higher than the 4.77 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $249,800 in June, up 5.0 percent from June 2015.
 
Existing condominium and co-op sales grew 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 650,000 units in June from 630,000 in May, and are now 1.6 percent above June 2015 (640,000 units). The median existing condo price was $231,600 in June, which is 3.2 percent above a year ago.
 
Regional Breakdown
 
  • June existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 1.3 percent to an annual rate of 760,000, but are still 5.6 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $284,800, which is 1.4 percent above June 2015.
  • In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 3.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.35 million in June, and are now 4.7 percent above June 2015. The median price in the Midwest was $199,900, up 5.7 percent from a year ago.
  • Existing-home sales in the South in June remained unchanged from May at an annual rate of 2.26 million, and are 3.2 percent above June 2015. The median price in the South was $217,400, up 5.5 percent from a year ago.
  • Existing-home sales in the West rose 1.7 percent to an annual rate of 1.20 million in June, but are still 0.8 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $350,800, which is 7.2 percent above June 2015.

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