The sales of existing homes in the U.S. held steady in August after four consecutive months of decline, according to the latest data released from the National Association of Realtors®. Regionally, existing-home sales were up in the Northeast and Midwest, essentially cancelling out declines in the West and the South.
“Strong gains in the Northeast and a moderate uptick in the Midwest helped to balance out any losses in the South and West, halting months of downturn momentum,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a press statement. “With inventory stabilizing and modestly rising, buyers appear ready to step back into the market.”
Existing-home sales are defined by the NAR as completed transactions that include existing single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops. Total existing-home sales remained unchanged from July and remained at a seasonally-adjusted rate of 5.34 million in August. According to the NAR data, sales of existing homes are now down 1.5 percent from a year ago when it was 5.24 million in August 2017.
August’s median existing-home price for all housing types was $264,800, up 4.6 percent from August 2017 when it was $253,100. August’s price gain marks the 78th straight month of year-over-year increases.
Total housing inventory also remained unchanged from July to August at 1.92 million existing homes available for sale, and is up 1.87 million from a year ago. At the current sales pace, unsold inventory is at a 4.3-month supply, consistent from last month and up from 4.1 months the year prior.
Homes typically stayed on the market for 29 days in August, up from 27 days in July, but down from 30 days in August 2017.
“While inventory continues to show modest year-over-year gains it is still far from a healthy level and new home construction is not keeping up to satisfy demand,” Yun said. “Homes continue to fly off the shelves with a majority of properties selling within a month, indicating that more inventory — especially moderately priced, entry level homes — would propel sales.”
First time home buyers and those buying in lower price points continue to face the most challenges, according to the data.
“Rising interest rates along with high home prices and lack of inventory continues to push entry-level and first time home buyers out of the market,” said Yun. “Realtors® continue to report that the demand is there — that current renters want to become homeowners — but there simply are not enough properties available in their price range.”
First time buyers made up 31 percent of sales in August, down from the month before (32 percent) but the same as a year ago.
The Northeast saw the most significant gain in existing-home sales with a 7.6 percent increase to an annual rate of 710,000. However, this remains 2.7 percent below a year ago. The median sale price of existing homes in the Northeast was $292,800, which is 2.6 percent higher than a year ago.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales rose 2.4 percent to an annual rate of 1.28 million in August, but are still down 0.8 percent from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $208,500, up 3.4 percent from August 2017.
Sales of existing homes in the South fell 0.4 percent to an annual rate of 2.23 million in August, up from 2.19 million a year ago. The median price in the south was $227,900, up 3.2 percent from a year ago.
In the West, existing-home sales dropped 5.9 percent to an annual rate of 1.12 million, 7.4 percent below last year’s figure. The median price in the West was $392,900, up 4.8 percent from August 2017.