WASHINGTON (May 21, 2019) – Existing-home sales saw a minor decline in April, continuing March’s drop in sales, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Two of the four major U.S. regions saw a slight dip in sales, while the West saw growth and the Midwest essentially bore no changes last month.
Total existing-home sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, fell 0.4% from March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million in April. Total sales are down 4.4% from a year ago (5.43 million in April 2018).
Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said he is not overly concerned about the 0.4% dip in sales and expects moderate growth very soon. “First, we are seeing historically low mortgage rates combined with a pent-up demand to buy, so buyers will look to take advantage of these conditions,” he said. “Also, job creation is improving, causing wage growth to align with home price growth, which helps affordability and will help spur more home sales.”
The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in April was $267,300, up 3.6% from April 2018 ($257,900). April’s price increase marks the 86th straight month of year-over-year gains.
Total housing inventory3 at the end of April increased to 1.83 million, up from 1.67 million existing homes available for sale in March and a 1.7% increase from 1.80 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 3.8 months in March and up from 4.0 months in April 2018.
“We see that the inventory totals have steadily improved, and will provide more choices for those looking to buy a home,” Yun said. He notes that sellers have to realize that price growth has moderated. “When placing their home on the market, home sellers need to be very realistic and aware of the current conditions.”
Properties remained on the market for an average of 24 days in April, down from 36 days in March and down from 26 days a year ago. Fifty-three percent of homes sold in April were on the market for less than a month.
Yun says that college student debt continues to hinder millennial homebuyers. “Given the record high job openings in the construction sector, some may want to take a gap year to work there and save, and thereby lessen the student debt burden.”
Realtor.com®’s Market Hotness Index, measuring time-on-the-market data and listing views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in April were Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.; Lafayette-West Lafayette, Ind.; Spokane-Spokane Valley, Wash.; Columbus, Ohio; and Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, Calif.
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate (link is external) for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 4.14% in April from 4.27% in March. The average commitment rate across all of 2018 was 4.54%.
“I think the market had a bit of a slow start in the Fall, but Realtors® all over the country have been telling me that April was a nice rebound. We’re hopeful and expect that this will continue heading into the summer,” said NAR President John Smaby, a second-generation Realtor® from Edina, Minnesota and broker at Edina Realty. “Homes over the last month sold quickly, which is not only a win-win for buyers and sellers, but it’s also great for the real estate industry.”
First-time buyers were responsible for 32% of sales in April, down from the 33% reported last month and one year ago. NAR’s 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in late 20184 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.
All-cash sales accounted for 20% of transactions in April, down from March and a year ago (21% in both cases). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 16% of homes in April, down from March’s 18%, but up from a year ago (14%).
Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – represented 3% of sales in April, equal to the 3% in March and down from 4% in April 2018. One percent of April 2019 sales were short sales.
Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.62 million in April, down from 4.67 million in March and down 4.0% from 4.81 million a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $269,300 in April, up 3.7% from April 2018.
Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 570,000 units in April, up 5.6% from the prior month and down 8.1% from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $251,000 in April, which is up 3.4% from a year ago.
April existing-home sales numbers in the Northeast decreased 4.5% to an annual rate of 640,000, 4.5% below a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $277,700, up 0.9% from April 2018.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales saw relatively no percentage change from the month prior, as the annual rate remained 1.17 million, which is 7.9% below April 2018 levels. The median price in the Midwest was $210,500, an increase of 5.5% from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the South modestly dropped 0.4% to an annual rate of 2.27 million in April, down 1.7% from a year ago. The median price in the South was $236,800, up 4.4% from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West grew 1.8% to an annual rate of 1.11 million in April, 5.9% below a year ago. The median price in the West was $395,100, up 1.3% from April 2018.
The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from Multiple Listing Services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. NAR rebenchmarks home sales periodically using other sources to assess overall home sales trends, including sales not reported by MLSs.
Existing-home sales, based on closings, differ from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. In addition, existing-home sales, which account for more than 90% of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample – about 40% of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.
The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.
Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Prior to this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales prior to 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.
The median price is where half sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical of market conditions than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if additional data is received.
The national median condo/co-op price often is higher than the median single-family home price because condos are concentrated in higher-cost housing markets. However, in a given area, single-family homes typically sell for more than condos as seen in NAR’s quarterly metro area price reports.
Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, single-family sales accounted for more than 90% of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).
Survey results represent owner-occupants and differ from separately reported monthly findings from NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, which include all types of buyers. Investors are under-represented in the annual study because survey questionnaires are mailed to the addresses of the property purchased and generally are not returned by absentee owners. Results include both new and existing homes.
Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), days on market, first-time buyers, all-cash transactions and investors are from a monthly survey for the NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at nar.realtor.
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