Existing-Home Sales Show Surprising Gain

Monday, February 02, 2009

Excerted from Realtor.org:

Existing-home sales rose unexpectedly while inventory declined, led by a surge of sales in the West, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – jumped 6.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.74 million units in December. The number compares to a downwardly revised pace of 4.45 million units in November, but 3.5 percent below the 4.91 million-unit pace in December 2007.

Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 11.7 percent to 3.68 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.3-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 11.2-month supply in November.

“We’ve added 25 million people to our population over the past decade and housing affordability conditions are the best we’ve seen since 1973, but household formation is much lower than expected,” he said. “Consequently, there is a pent-up demand which could be unleashed with the right stimulus, including a non-repayable home buyer tax credit. The Obama administration and Congress need to move fast to stimulate a spring sales upturn which will help to stabilize home prices and set the foundation for a sustainable economic recovery.”

Existing-Home Sales By Region

  • Northeast: slipped 1.4 percent to an annual pace of 720,000 in December, and are 14.3 percent below December 2007. The median price in the Northeast was $235,000, which is 7.8 percent lower than a year ago.
  • Midwest: increased 4.0 percent in December to a level of 1.04 million but are 10.3 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $140,800, down 11.4 percent from December 2007.
  • South: rose 7.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.74 million in December, but are 11.2 percent lower than December 2007. The median price in the South was $158,600, which is down 8 percent from a year ago.
  • West: jumped 13.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.25 million in December and are 31.6 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the West was $213,100, down 31.5 percent from December 2007.

A Good Time to Buy

NAR President Charles McMillan said it’s an excellent time for first-time home buyers with good jobs.

“The typical buyer plans to stay in their home for 10 years, which is the correct approach in today’s market,” he said. “With historically low mortgage interest rates, flexible sellers, a large inventory, and homes that are selling for less than replacement construction costs in much of the country, buyers who’ve been on the fence should take a closer look at today’s market.”

McMillan added that first-time buyers may want to consider an FHA loan, which offers down-payments of 3.5 percent on a safe 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 5.29 percent in December from 6.09 percent in November; the rate was 6.10 percent in December 2007. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year rate was 5.12 percent.

Source: National Association of Realtors

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