Existing-Home Sales Subside 1.7 Percent in August

Washington, D.C. – September 20, 2017 (nar.realtor) Existing-home sales stumbled in August for the fourth time in five months as strained supply levels continue to subdue overall activity, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Sales gains in the Northeast and Midwest were outpaced by declines in the South and West.

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Total existing-home sales(1), which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, retreated 1.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.35 million in August from 5.44 million in July. Last month’s sales pace is 0.2 percent above last August, and is the lowest since then.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the slump in existing sales stretched into August despite what remains a solid level of demand for buying a home. “Steady employment gains, slowly rising incomes and lower mortgage rates generated sustained buyer interest all summer long, but unfortunately, not more home sales,” he said. “What’s ailing the housing market and continues to weigh on overall sales is the inadequate levels of available inventory and the upward pressure it’s putting on prices in several parts of the country. Sales have been unable to break out because there are simply not enough homes for sale.”

Added Yun, “Some of the South region’s decline in closings can be attributed to the devastation Hurricane Harvey caused to the greater Houston area. Sales will be impacted the rest of the year in Houston, as well as in the most severely affected areas in Florida from Hurricane Irma. However, nearly all of the lost activity will likely show up in 2018.”

The median existing-home price(2) for all housing types in August was $253,500, up 5.6 percent from August 2016 ($240,000). August’s price increase marks the 66th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory(3) at the end of August declined 2.1 percent to 1.88 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 6.5 percent lower than a year ago (2.01 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 27 consecutive months. Unsold inventory is at a 4.2-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.5 months a year ago.

Properties typically stayed on the market for 30 days in August, which is unchanged from July and down from 36 days a year ago. Fifty-one percent of homes sold in August were on the market for less than a month.

Inventory data from realtor.com® reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in August were San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 29 days; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., 30 days; Vallejo-Fairfield, Calif., 31 days; and San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., and Salt Lake City, Utah, both at 32 days.

Real Estate Infographic

“Market conditions continue to be stressful and challenging for both prospective first-time buyers and homeowners looking to trade up,” said Yun. “The ongoing rise in home prices is straining the budgets of some of these would-be buyers, and what is available for sale is moving off the market quickly because supply remains minimal in the lower- and mid-price ranges.”

First-time buyers were 31 percent of sales in August, which is down from 33 percent in July and is the lowest share since last August (also 31 percent). NAR’s 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in late 2016(4) – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 35 percent.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate (link is external) for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.88 percent in August from 3.97 percent in July and is the lowest since November 2016 (3.77 percent). The average commitment rate for all of 2016 was 3.65 percent.

All-cash sales were 20 percent of transactions in August, up from 19 percent in July but down from 22 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 15 percent of homes in August, up from 13 percent in July and 12 percent a year ago.

Distressed sales(6) – foreclosures and short sales – were 4 percent of sales in August, down from 5 percent both in July and a year ago. Three percent of August sales were foreclosures and 1 percent were short sales.

According to President William E. Brown, a Realtor® from Alamo, California, the housing market continues to recover from the depths of the financial crisis. However, the significant household wealth many homeowners have accumulated in recent years through rising home values could be at risk if any of the proposed tax provisions follow through with attempts to marginalize the mortgage interest deduction and eliminate state and local tax deductions.

“Consumers are smart and know that any attempt to cap or limit the deductibility of mortgage interest is essentially a tax on homeownership and the middle class,” said Brown. A study commissioned by NAR (link is external) found that under some tax reform proposals, many homeowners with adjusted gross incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would see an average tax increase of $815, along with home values shrinking by an average of more than 10 percent. An even steeper decline would be seen in areas with higher property and state income taxes. Congress must keep homeowners in mind as it looks towards tax reform this year.”

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales decreased 2.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.74 million in August from 4.84 million in July, but are still 0.4 percent above the 4.72 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $255,500 in August, up 5.6 percent from August 2016.

Existing condominium and co-op sales climbed 1.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000 units in August, but are still 1.6 percent below a year ago. The median existing condo price was $237,600 in August, which is 5.4 percent above a year ago.

August existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 10.8 percent to an annual rate of 720,000, and are now 1.4 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $289,500, which is 5.6 percent above August 2016.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales rose 2.4 percent to an annual rate of 1.28 million in August, and are now 0.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $200,500, up 5.0 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South decreased 5.7 percent to an annual rate of 2.15 million in August, and are now 0.9 percent lower than a year ago. The median price in the South was $220,400, up 5.4 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West fell 4.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.20 million in August, but are still 0.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $374,700, up 7.7 percent from August 2016.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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NOTE: For local information, please contact the local association of Realtors® for data from local multiple listing services. Local MLS data is the most accurate source of sales and price information in specific areas, although there may be differences in reporting methodology.

1. 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 percent of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample – about 40 percent 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.

2. 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.

3. 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 percent of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).

4. 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.

5. According to NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, an average of 62 percent of buyers who financed their purchase with a mortgage made a down payment of 6 percent or less.

6. 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 Realtor.org.

NOTE: NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index for August is scheduled for release on September 27, and Existing-Home Sales for September will be released October 20; release times are 10:00 a.m. ET.

Media Contact:

Adam DeSanctis
(202) 383-1178
Email

Pam Patenaude Right Choice for HUD Deputy Secretary, Say Realtors®

Washington, D.C. – September 14, 2017 (nar.realtor) The U.S. Senate today approved the nomination of Pam Patenaude as deputy secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Following is a statement from NAR President William E. Brown on the vote:

“Pam Patenaude is the right choice for deputy secretary, and Realtors® are pleased to see her nomination win approval from the Senate.

“She has a big task ahead. Home prices continue to rise in an environment of ever-tightening mortgage credit, which means buyers are struggling to keep pace. That’s a combination that’s tough not only on young and first-time buyers but also on current homeowners looking to sell so they can move up to a property that better fits their needs.

“As a result, it’s no surprise that the homeownership rate still hovers around a 50-year low.

“Pam understands those challenges. She has the background and experience necessary to do the job right, and we look forward to working with her to improve the landscape for current and prospective homeowners.”

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Homeownership a Common Interest, Deserves Protection in Tax Reform Debate

Washington, D.C. – September 14, 2017 (nar.realtor) Tax reform done right could yield savings and simplification that benefits average Americans, but history shows that misguided reforms can pose significant threats to the economy.

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That’s the message the National Association of REALTORS® brought to Congress today as Iona Harrison, chair of NAR’s Federal Taxation Committee, testified (link is external) before the Senate Finance Committee.

At the hearing, titled “Individual Tax Reform,” Harrison told senators that putting homeownership in the crosshairs of tax reform would strike at millions of American households.

“Real estate is the most widely held category of assets that American families own, and for many Americans, it’s the largest portion of their family’s net worth,” Harrison said. “As 64 percent of American households are owner-occupied, we believe that homeownership is not a special interest, but is rather a common interest.”

Over the past year, proposals for tax reform have included the elimination of important benefits like the state and local tax deduction, a near doubling of the standard deduction – which would all but nullify the benefits of the mortgage interest deduction – as well as caps to the MID.

REALTORS® have warned lawmakers that proposals to limit or nullify the tax incentives for homeownership could actually raise taxes on millions of middle class homeowners while putting the value of their homes at risk.

In her testimony, Harrison responded to critics of real estate deductions, who often claim those deductions benefit only a small number of wealthy individuals. Harrison noted:

  • 70 percent of the value of real property tax deductions in 2014 went to taxpayers with incomes less than $200,000
  • 53 percent of individuals claiming the itemized deduction for real estate taxes in 2014 earned less than $100,000
  • 32.7 million tax filers claimed a deduction for mortgage interest in 2015
  • Half of taxpayers with mortgages over $500,000 have AGI below $200,000., according to research conducted for NAR.

To that end, Harrison reminded the committee that tax reform efforts in the late 1980’s were fraught with unintended consequences that delivered a broadside to the economy and only offered brief tax relief.

“When Congress last undertook major tax reform in 1986, it eliminated or significantly changed a large swath of tax provisions, including major real estate provisions, in order to lower rates, only to increase those rates just five years later in 1991,” said Harrison. “Most of the eliminated tax provisions never returned and in the case of real estate, a major recession followed.”

Despite the REALTORS®’ concerns raised during the hearing, Harrison reminded Senators that REALTORS® do support tax reform.

“Homeowners already pay 83 percent of all federal income taxes, and reform that raises their taxes is a failed effort,” said Harrison. “But NAR supports the goals of simplification and structural improvements for the tax system, and individual tax rates should be as low as possible while still providing for a balanced fiscal policy. We simply believe that to achieve these goals, Congress should commit first to doing no harm to the common interest that homeownership provides.”

The National Association of REALTORS®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Media Contact:

Jon Boughtin
(202) 383-1193
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Outlook Remains Bright for Commercial Real Estate Despite Price Plateau

Washington, D.C. – September 12, 2017 (nar.realtor) Commercial real estate price growth in large markets is expected to flatten over the next year, but strong leasing demand and investor appetite in smaller markets should keep the sector on solid ground, according to the latest National Association of Realtors® quarterly commercial real estate forecast, https://www.nar.realtor/reports/commercial-real-estate-outlook.

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Backed by the ongoing stretch of outstanding job creation in recent years, national office vacancy rates are forecast by Realtors® to retreat 1.1 percent to 11.9 percent over the coming year. The vacancy rate for industrial space is expected to decline 1.1 percent to 7.8 percent, and retail availability is to decrease 0.4 percent to 11.4 percent. Even as new apartment completions bring more supply to many markets, the multifamily sector will still likely see a vacancy rate decline from 6.6 percent to 6.1 percent.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the U.S. economy is on stable footing and is chugging along at a decent but unspectacular pace. “A very healthy labor market and stronger confidence and spending from both consumers and businesses boosted economic expansion to a solid 3.0 percent last quarter,” he said. “There’s legs for more of the same growth to close out the year, which bodes well for sustained interest in all types of commercial space.”

According to Yun, the appetite for commercial property is high, but investment activity does appear to be entering the maturation phase of the current cycle. The investor shift away from large markets to smaller ones is creating a divergence in sales activity. In the second quarter, large markets saw a 5 percent annual decline in sales, while Realtors® reported a sales boost of 4 percent in small markets.

“While inventory shortages are still driving prices higher in most markets, shrinking cap rates and the higher interest rate environment are expected to lead to a plateau in price growth over the next year, especially for Class A assets in large markets,” said Yun. “As a result, investors will continue to look to small and tertiary markets for properties that have the best opportunity to provide stability and generate solid returns.”

Led by the industrial and multifamily sectors, Realtors® continue to report that leasing fundamentals for the four major commercial sectors are strong. Last quarter, the considerable appetite for industrial space — primarily from ecommerce and trade — resulted in distribution warehouses and logistic centers driving close to 70 percent of new construction leasing. Although 225.4 million square feet of additional space is currently in the pipeline, vacancy rates are still expected to trend downward as supply slowly catches up with demand.

In the apartment sector, the pace of new construction is finally slowing in many markets after considerable building in recent years. However, rising household formation and the supply and affordability barriers to homeownership will continue to keep vacancies low and cause rents to maintain their trajectory of outpacing incomes.

“The economy is healthy for the most part, but headwinds abound in the short term,” said Yun. “A temporary slowdown in areas severely impacted by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, geopolitical tensions abroad and any minor correction in the financial markets could temporarily knock the economy slightly off course in coming months.”

NAR’s latest Business Creation Index (BCI), which launched in August 2016, showed ongoing positive developments for smaller commercial businesses in local communities. Over half of Realtors® have reported an increase in business openings and fewer closings every month since December, with food and beverage and retail making up the bulk of new businesses.

NAR’s latest Commercial Real Estate Outlook1 offers overall projections for four major commercial sectors and analyzes quarterly data in the office, industrial, retail and multifamily markets.

The NAR commercial community includes commercial members, real estate boards, committees, subcommittees and forums; and NAR commercial affiliate organizations — CCIM Institute, Institute of Real Estate Management, Realtors® Land Institute, Society of Industrial and Office Realtors®, and Counselors of Real Estate.

Approximately 70,000 NAR members specialize in commercial real estate brokerage and related services including property management, counseling and appraisal. In addition, more than 200,000 members are involved in commercial transactions as a secondary business.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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1. Additional analysis will be posted under Economists’ Outlook in the Research blog section of Realtor.org in coming days at: economistsoutlook.blogs.realtor.org.

The next commercial forecast and quarterly market report will be released November 15 at 10:00 a.m. ET.

NAR Infographic: A Dollar a Day: Simple Ways to Save For a Down Payment

Washington, D.C. – Sept. 6, 2017 (PRNewswire) Approximately 60 percent of homebuyers financed their home using a 6 percent – or less – down payment, according to data from the National Association of Realtors®. With the most recent median existing-home price clocking in at $258,300, a 6 percent down payment is $15,498. NAR has some simple suggestions for potential homebuyers on how they can cut costs and save for that down payment.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Infographic