Existing-Home Sales Rise in October

WASHINGTON — November 19, 2012 —Sales of existing homes increased in October, even with some regional impact from Hurricane Sandy, while home prices continued to rise due to lower levels of inventory supply, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 2.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.79 million in October from a downwardly revised 4.69 million in September, and are 10.9 percent above the 4.32 million-unit level in October 2011.

Lawrence Yun , NAR chief economist, said there was some impact from Hurricane Sandy. "Home sales continue to trend up and most October transactions were completed by the time the storm hit, but the growing demand with limited inventory is pressuring home prices in much of the country," he said. "We expect an impact on Northeastern home sales in the coming months from a pause and delays in storm-impacted regions."

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $178,600 in October, which is 11.1 percent above a year ago. This marks eight consecutive monthly year-over-year increases, which last occurred from October 2005 to May 2006.

"Rising home prices have already resulted in a $760 billion growth in home equity during the past year," Yun said. "Given that each percentage point of price appreciation translates into an additional $190 billion in home equity, we could see close to a $1 trillion gain next year."

Distressed homes - foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts - accounted for 24 percent of October sales (12 percent were foreclosures and 12 percent were short sales), unchanged from September; they were 28 percent in October 2011. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 20 percent below market value in October, while short sales were discounted 14 percent.

Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 1.4 percent to 2.14 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.4-month supply 4 at the current sales pace, down from 5.6 months in September, and is the lowest housing supply since February of 2006 when it was 5.2 months. Listed inventory is 21.9 percent below a year ago when there was a 7.6-month supply.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 3.38 percent in October from 3.47 percent in September; the rate was 4.07 percent in October 2011.

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