Existing-home sales continued to improve in August and the national median price rose on a year-over-year basis for the sixth straight month.
Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 7.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.82 million in August from 4.47 million in July, and are 9.3 percent higher than the 4.41 million-unit level in August 2011.
Favorable buying conditions get the credit. The housing market is steadily recovering with consistent increases in both home sales and median prices. More buyers are taking advantage of excellent housing affordability conditions. Inventories in many parts of the country are broadly balanced, favoring neither sellers nor buyers. However, the West and Florida markets are experiencing inventory shortages, which are placing pressure on prices.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.60 percent in August from a record low 3.55 percent in July; the rate was 4.27 percent in August 2011.
The strengthening housing market is occurring even with difficult mortgage qualifying conditions, which is testament to the sizable stored-up housing demand that accumulated in the past five years.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $187,400 in August, up 9.5 percent from a year ago. The last time there were six back-to-back monthly price increases from a year earlier was from December 2005 to May 2006. The August increase was the strongest since January 2006 when the median price rose 10.2 percent from a year earlier.
Distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts — accounted for 22 percent of August sales (12 percent were foreclosures and 10 percent were short sales), down from 24 percent in July and 31 percent in August 2011. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 19 percent below market value in August, while short sales were discounted 13 percent.
Total housing inventory at the end of August rose 2.9 percent to 2.47 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 6.4-month supply in July. Listed inventory is 18.2 percent below a year ago when there was an 8.2-month supply.
The median time on market was 70 days in August, consistent with 69 days in July but down 23.9 percent from 92 days in August 2011. Thirty-two percent of homes sold in August were on the market for less than a month, while 19 percent were on the market for six months or longer.
Total sales this year will be 8 to 10 percent above 2011, but some buyers are frustrated with mortgage availability. If most of the financially qualified buyers could obtain financing, home sales would be about 10 to 15 percent stronger, and the related economic activity would create several hundred thousand jobs over the period of a year.
First-time buyers accounted for 31 percent of purchasers in August, down from 34 percent in July; they were 32 percent in August 2011.
All-cash sales were unchanged at 27 percent of transactions in August; they were 29 percent in August 2011. Investors, who account for most cash sales, purchased 18 percent of homes in August, up from 16 percent in July; they were 22 percent in August 2011.
Single-family home sales rose 8.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.30 million in August from 3.98 million in July, and are 10.0 percent above the 3.91 million-unit pace in August 2011. The median existing single-family home price was $188,700 in August, up 10.2 percent from a year ago.
Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 6.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 520,000 in August from 490,000 in July, and are 4.0 percent above the 500,000-unit level a year ago. The median existing condo price was $176,700 in August, which is 3.3 percent higher than August 2011.