According to the National Association of Realtors, existing-home sales receded in September 2019 following two consecutive months of increases. Each of the four major regions witnessed sales drop off last month, with the Midwest absorbing the brunt of those declines.
Total existing-home sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 2.2% from August to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.38 million in September. Despite the decline, overall sales are up 3.9% from a year ago (5.18 million in September 2018).
Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist, said that despite historically low mortgage rates, sales have not commensurately increased, in part due to a low level of new housing options. "We must continue to beat the drum for more inventory," said Yun, who has called for additional home construction for over a year. "Home prices are rising too rapidly because of the housing shortage, and this lack of inventory is preventing home sales growth potential."
The median existing-home price for all housing types in September was $272,100, up 5.9% from September 2018 ($256,900), as prices rose in all regions. September's price increase marks 91 straight months of year-over-year gains.
Total housing inventory at the end of September sat at 1.83 million, approximately equal to the amount of existing-homes available for sale in August, but a 2.7% decrease from 1.88 million one year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.1-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.0 months in August and down from the 4.4-month figure recorded in September 2018.
Properties typically remained on the market for 32 days in September, up from 31 days in August and even with September 2018. Forty-nine percent of homes sold in September 2019 were on the market for less than a month.
First-time buyers were responsible for 33% of sales in September, up from 31% in August and 32% recorded in September 2018. NAR's 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers - released in late 2018 - revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.
As the share of first-time buyers rose, individual investors or second-home buyers, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14% of homes in September 2019, unchanged from August but down from 16% recorded last September. All-cash sales accounted for 17% of transactions in September, down from 19% in August and 21% in September 2018.
Distressed sales - foreclosures and short sales - represented 2% of sales in September, unchanged from August but down from 3% in September 2018.
"For families on the sidelines thinking about buying a home, current rates are making the climate extremely favorable in markets across the country," said NAR President John Smaby. "These traditionally low rates make it that much easier to qualify for a mortgage, and they also open up various housing selections to buyers everywhere."
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 3.61% in September, down from 3.62% in August. The average commitment rate across all of 2018 was 4.54%.
"Mortgage rates under 4% are amazingly attractive for homebuyers," said Yun. "The rise in foot traffic as evidenced by the open rates of SentriLock key boxes shows growing buyer interest."
Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.78 million in September, down from 4.91 million in August, but up 3.9% from a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $275,100 in September 2019, up 6.1% from September 2018.
Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 600,000 units in September, 1.7% above the previous month and 3.4% higher than a year ago. The median existing condo price was $248,600 in September, which is an increase of 4.5% from a year ago.
As noted, existing-home sales in September dropped in every region compared to the month prior. Compared to last year, September sales increased in three of the four major regions, while neither growing nor declining in the Midwest. Median home prices in every region increased from one year ago.
September existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 2.8% to an annual rate of 690,000, a 1.5% rise from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $301,100, up 5.2% from September 2018.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales dropped 3.1% to an annual rate of 1.27 million, which is nearly equal to August 2018. The median price in the Midwest was $213,500, a 7.2% jump from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the South decreased 2.1% to an annual rate of 2.28 million in September, up 6.0% from a year ago. The median price in the South was $237,300, up 6.3% from one year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West declined 0.9% to an annual rate of 1.14 million in September, 5.6% above a year ago. The median price in the West was $403,600, up 4.5% from September 2018.