Existing-home sales declined 2.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.1 million units in August, according to the latest figures from the National Association of Realtors (NAR). By comparison, 5.24 million units were sold in July. August's total remained 3.4% over the 4.93 million-unit level of August 2008.
Although not quite dashing hopes that the market has recovered, August's numbers demonstrate that ‘we can't take a housing rebound for granted,’ says Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist.
An NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 30% of homes in August and that distressed homes accounted for 31% of transactions. Both were unchanged from July.
"The recent trend shows broad improvement in most of the country, but with an expected rise in foreclosures over the next 12 months, we need to maintain a healthy level of ready buyers to absorb the inventory," adds Yun, echoing NAR's call for an extension of the federal first-time home buyer tax credit, which is due to expire at the end of November.
Total housing inventory at the end of August fell 10.8% to 3.62 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.5-month supply at the current sales pace – down from a 9.3-month supply in July. Unsold inventory totals are 16.4% lower than a year ago.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types, downwardly distorted by distressed properties that sell at a discount, was $177,700 in August.
Single-family home sales fell 2.8%, and existing condo and co-op sales slipped 1.6%.
Regionally, existing-home sales declined least in the Northeast, falling 2.2% to an annual pace of 910,000 in August. Existing-home sales in the Midwest fell 6.6% in August to a level of 1.14 million, but are unchanged from a year ago.
Existing-home sales were down 3.1% in the South and 2.7% in the West.
SOURCE: National Association of Realtors