Existing-home sales on an upswing last month

Existing-home sales rose slightly in November, an indication the market could be stabilizing, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Total existing-home sales -- including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops -- rose 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5 million units in November, from an upwardly revised pace of 4.98 million in October. Those numbers still are 20.0 percent below the 6.25 million-unit level in November 2006.

“Near-term, existing-home sales should continue to hover in a narrow range, just as they have since September, and that’s good news because it’ll be a further sign that the housing market is stabilizing,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. Yun said disruptions in mortgage availability and pricing peaked in August, which caused sales to slow in subsequent months.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $210,200 in November, down 3.3 percent from November 2006 when the median was $217,300. However, “there remains a downward drag” on the national median home price as sales have shifted away from expensive markets, according to the NAR.

Total housing inventory declined 3.6 percent at the end of November to 4.27 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.3-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 10.7-month supply in October. 

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 6.21 percent in November from 6.38 percent in October; the rate was 6.24 percent in November 2006.

As for single-family homes alone, sales rose 0.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.40 million in November from 4.37 million in October, but are 19.9 percent below the 5.49 million-unit pace in November 2006.  The median existing single-family home price was $208,700 in November, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the West increased 10.3 percent in November to a level of 960,000, but are 25 percent below a year ago.  The median price in the West was $325,800, which is 6.8 percent lower than November 2006.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales were unchanged at an annual rate of 1.18 million in November, but are 16.9 percent below November 2006.  The median price in the Midwest was $163,000, down 0.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South declined 2.0 percent to an annual rate of 1.99 million in November, and are 19.4 percent below a year ago.  The median price in the South was $174,200, which is 2.5