Existing-home sales decline in September

Total existing-home sales in September decreased 3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.91 million from an upwardly revised 5.06 million in August, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The September figure is 11.3% above the 4.41 million-unit pace in September 2010.

This drop in existing-home sales comes just a day after the release of September housing starts, which showed 15% growth. 

“Existing-home sales have bounced around this year, staying relatively close to the current level in most months,” said 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.”

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $165,400 in September, down 3.5% from September 2010. Distressed homes 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 decreased 2% to 3.48 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.5-month supply, compared with an 8.4-month supply in August. 

Single-family home sales fell 3.6% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.33 million in September from 4.49 million in August, but are 12.2% above the 3.86 million-unit level in September 2010. The median existing single-family home price was $165,600 in September, down 3.9% from a year ago. 

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast rose 2.6% to an annual level of 790,000 in September and are 6.8% above a year ago. Existing-home sales in the Midwest slipped 0.9% in September to a pace of 1.09 million but are 17.2% higher than September 2010. In the South, existing-home sales declined 2.6% to an annual level of 1.89 million in September but are 10.5% above a year ago. Existing-home sales in the West fell 8.8% to an annual pace of 1.14 million in September but are 10.7% higher than September 2010.