The Economy

U.S. Home Resales Fall 4.8% in August

The dip in existing-home sales after three straight months of gains reflects inventory levels that were 1.7% lower than a year ago.
Katie Kuehner-HebertSeptember 21, 2015

Following three straight months of gains, existing-home sales dipped in August despite slowing price growth and a positive turnaround in the share of sales to first–time buyers, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

Total existing–home sales fell 4.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.31 million in August, from a slight downward revision of 5.58 million in July. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 5.51 million-unit pace of home sales last month.

Despite last month’s decline, sales have risen year–over–year for 11 consecutive months and are 6.2% percent above a year ago, the realtor trade group said.

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“Sales activity was down in many parts of the country last month — especially in the South and West — as the persistent summer theme of tight inventory levels likely deterred some buyers,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a news release. “The good news for the housing market is that price appreciation the last two months has started to moderate from the unhealthier rate of growth seen earlier this year.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types last month was $228,700, which is 4.7% above August 2014. The price increase marks the 42nd consecutive month of year–over–year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of August rose 1.3%, to 2.29 million existing homes available for sale, but is 1.7% lower than a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 5.2–month supply at the current sales pace, up from 4.9 months in July.

“With sales and overall demand higher than a year ago and supply mostly unchanged, low inventories will likely continue to limit options for those looking to buy this fall even with the overall pool of buyers shrinking because of seasonal factors,” Yun said.

The percent share of first–time buyers rebounded to 32% in August, up from 28% in July and matching the highest share of the year set in May. A year ago, first–time buyers represented 29% of all buyers.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30–year, conventional, fixed–rate mortgage declined to 3.91% in August after climbing above 4% in July for the first time since November 2014.