Existing-home sales were down in September but remained above a year ago, according to new data released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Total existing-home sales – which comprise single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – declined 3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.91 million in September, down from an upwardly revised 5.06 million in August. However, they are 11.3% above the 4.41 million unit pace in September 2010.
All-cash sales accounted for 30% of purchase activity in September, up from 29% in August and 29% also in September 2010; investors make up the bulk of cash purchases. Investors purchased 19% of homes in September, down from 22% in August; they purchased 18% in September 2010. First-time buyers accounted for 32% of transactions in September, unchanged from August; they also accounted for 32% in September 2010.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $165,400 in September, down 3.5% from September 2010. Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales typically sold at deep discounts – accounted for 30% of sales in September (18% were foreclosures and 12% were short sales), down from 31% in August and 35% in September 2010.
Total housing inventory at the end of September declined 2% to 3.48 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.5-month supply at the current sales pace, compared with an 8.4-month supply in August.
‘Existing-home sales have bounced around this year, staying relatively close to the current level in most months,’ says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. ‘The irony is affordability conditions have improved to historic highs and more creditworthy borrowers are trying to purchase homes, but the share of contract failures is double the level of September 2010. Even so, the volume of successful buyers is higher than a year ago and is remaining fairly stable – this speaks to an unfulfilled demand.’