Existing home sales edge higher in Augustby Marcie Geffner
The U.S. housing market continued to show signs of a sustained recovery in August, judging by the latest data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Completed sales of existing houses, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops were up 13.2 percent compared with August 2012, and up 1.7 percent compared against last month.
The August pace of sales was the highest since February 2007, NAR reported.
Median prices pop
The national median price of existing homes sold in August was $212,100, up 14.7 percent compared with August 2012 and the strongest year-over-year gain since October 2005, when the median rose 16.6 percent. The recent rise marks 18 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, NAR reported.
The median price is the point at which half of the homes were sold for lower prices and half were sold for higher prices. Median prices can be compared for the same month from year to year, but not from one month to the next due to seasonality factors.
In the statement, NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty in Villa Park, Calif., said rising home values will encourage more people to sell their home. Most sellers will buy another home, but more construction of new homes and less demand from buyers to purchase homes due to higher prices and interest rates will combine to slow the pace of rising home values, Thomas said.
Who’s buying what?
First-time buyers accounted for 28 percent of home purchases in August, down from 29 percent in July and 31 percent in August 2012.
Thirty-two percent of August sales were all-cash, up from 31 percent in July and 27 percent in August 2012.
Still, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement that the housing market might have hit a temporary peak.
“Rising mortgage interest rates pushed more buyers to close deals, but monthly sales are likely to be uneven in the months ahead,” Yun said. “Limited inventory (of for-sale homes) in some areas means multiple bidding remains a factor.”
The median time on the market for homes sold in August was 43 days, little changed from 42 days in July, but much faster than the average of 70 days in August 2012.
Short sales were on the market a median of 98 days. Bank foreclosures typically sold in 52 days. Other homes took an average of 41 days to be sold. Forty-three percent of homes sold in August were on the market less than one month.
Distressed sales slow
Some of the median price growth can be attributed to a decline in the share of short sales and bank-owned foreclosures, NAR said.
Short sales accounted for 4 percent of August sales and sold at an average price discount of 12 percent. Bank-owned foreclosures accounted for 8 percent of August sales and were sold at an average discount of 16 percent. Combined, short sales and sales of bank-owned foreclosures accounted for 12 percent of August transactions, a drop from 15 percent in July and the lowest share since N.A.R. began monthly tracking in October 2008.