According to the National Association of Realtors, existing-home sales in U.S. surged for the third straight month in November 2017, and reached their strongest pace in almost 11 years. All major regions except for the West saw a significant hike in sales activity last month.
Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, jumped 5.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.81 million in November from an upwardly revised 5.50 million in October. After last month's increase, sales are 3.8 percent higher than a year ago and are at their strongest pace since December 2006 (6.42 million).
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says home sales in most of the country expanded at a tremendous clip in November. "Faster economic growth in recent quarters, the booming stock market and continuous job gains are fueling substantial demand for buying a home as 2017 comes to an end," he said. "As evidenced by a subdued level of first-time buyers and increased share of cash buyers, move-up buyers with considerable down payments and those with cash made up a bulk of the sales activity last month. The odds of closing on a home are much better at the upper end of the market, where inventory conditions continue to be markedly better."
The median existing-home price for all housing types in November was $248,000, up 5.8 percent from November 2016 ($234,400). November's price increase marks the 69th straight month of year-over-year gains.
Total housing inventory at the end of November dropped 7.2 percent to 1.67 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 9.7 percent lower than a year ago (1.85 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 30 consecutive months. Unsold inventory is at a 3.4-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.0 months a year ago.
"The anticipated rise in mortgage rates next year could further cut into affordability if these staggeringly low supply levels persist," said Yun. "Price appreciation is too fast in a lot of markets right now. The increase in homebuilder optimism must translate to significantly more new construction in 2018 to help ease these acute inventory shortages."
First-time buyers were 29 percent of sales in November, which is down from 32 percent both in October and a year ago. NAR's 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers - released earlier this year - revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 34 percent.
Matching the highest share since May, all-cash sales were 22 percent of transactions in November, which is up from 20 percent in October and 21 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in November, up from 13 percent last month and unchanged from a year ago.
"The elevated presence of investors paying in cash continues to add a layer of frustration to the supply and affordability headwinds aspiring first-time buyers are experiencing," said Yun. "The healthy labor market and higher wage gains are expected to further strengthen buyer demand from young adults next year. Their prospects for becoming homeowners will only improve if more lower-priced and smaller-sized homes come onto the market."
Properties typically stayed on the market for 40 days in November, which is up from 34 days in October but down from 43 days a year ago. Forty-four percent of homes sold in November were on the market for less than a month.
Realtor.com's Market Hotness Index, measuring time on the market data and listings views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in November were San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.; Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif.; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.; San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif.; and Stockton-Lodi, Calif.
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage increased for the second straight month to 3.92 percent in November from 3.90 percent in October. The average commitment rate for all of 2016 was 3.65 percent.
On the topic of tax reform, NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall says it's good news homeowners can continue to count on tax incentives such as the mortgage interest deduction and the state and local tax deduction.
"Only 6 percent of homeowners have mortgages exceeding $750,000, and only 5 percent pay more than $10,000 in property taxes, but most homeowners won't itemize under the new regime," she said. "While we're pleased that important homeownership incentives such as the capital gains exclusion survived in conference, additional changes are required to truly incentivize homeownership in the tax code."
Distressed sales - foreclosures and short sales - were 4 percent of sales for the fourth straight month in November, and are down from 6 percent a year ago. Three percent of November sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales.
Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales grew 4.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.09 million in November from 4.87 million in October, and are now 3.2 percent above the 4.93 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $248,800 in November, up 5.4 percent from November 2016.
Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 14.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 720,000 units in November, and are now 7.5 percent above a year ago. The median existing condo price was $242,500 in November, which is 8.8 percent above a year ago.
November existing-home sales in the Northeast leaped 6.7 percent to an annual rate of 800,000, (unchanged from a year ago). The median price in the Northeast was $273,600, which is 4.0 percent above November 2016.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales jumped 8.4 percent to an annual rate of 1.42 million in November, and are now 6.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $196,100, up 8.8 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the South expanded 8.3 percent to an annual rate of 2.34 million in November, and are now 4.0 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the South was $216,200, up 4.8 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West declined 2.3 percent to an annual rate of 1.25 million in November, but are still 2.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $375,100, up 8.2 percent from November 2016.