Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg

U.S. Sales of Existing Homes Climb to an Almost 11-Year High

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Sales of previously owned U.S. homes rose in November to an almost 11-year high, indicating demand picked up momentum heading into the end of the year, according to a National Association of Realtors report released Wednesday.

Highlights of Existing-Home Sales (November)

  • Contract closings rose 5.6% m/m to a 5.81m annual rate (est. 5.53m) after 5.5m
  • Median sales price increased 5.8% y/y to $248,000
  • Inventory of available properties fell 9.7% y/y to 1.67m, the second-lowest in records to 1999, the NAR said

Key Takeaways

The results show broad strength, with particular firmness in the upper-end market where inventory conditions are “markedly better,” the group said. Forty-four percent of homes sold in November were on the market for less than a month.

A sustained housing recovery is helping boost economic growth this quarter. At the same time, it’s still hard for many first-time and younger buyers to enter the market given the shortage of available houses for sale and property price appreciation that’s outpacing wage growth.

Higher mortgage rates next year could further cut into affordability, the NAR said. Even so, the housing recovery remains on track as demand is being underpinned by a steady job market and appreciating stock portfolios for some Americans.

Economist Views

“Home prices continue to march higher at a very solid pace,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said at a press briefing accompanying the report. The data are “showing exceptionally tight inventory conditions.”

The overall impact from the tax reform plan “could be mildly negative,” however that could be cushioned by good market conditions that include short-term fiscal stimulus from the legislation, he said. The net impact could be slower price gains of up to 3 percent in 2018, he said.

Other Details

  • Purchases climbed in three of four regions, led by an 8.4 percent gain in the Midwest and an 8.3 percent advance in the South; sales fell 2.3 percent in the West
  • At the current pace, it would take 3.4 months to sell the homes on the market, the lowest in records to 1999 and down from 3.9 months in the prior month; Realtors group considers less than five months’ supply consistent with a tight market
  • Single-family home sales climbed 4.5 percent to annual rate of 5.09 million
  • Purchases of condominium and co-op units rose to 720,000 pace
  • First-time buyers made up 29 percent of all sales, compared with 32 percent in prior month last year; 40 percent is ‘normal’ share, NAR’s Yun says
  • Existing home sales account for 90 percent of the market and are calculated when a contract closes. New-home sales, considered a timelier indicator though their share is only about 10 percent, are tabulated when contracts get signed.

— With assistance by Chris Middleton

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