Existing-Home Sales Ease Following Four Monthly Gains

Existing-home sales in August gave back some of their strong gain in July but remain above year-ago levels, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales , including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, declined 2.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 5.10 million units in August from a pace of 5.24 million in July, but remain 3.4 percent above the 4.93 million-unit level in August 2008. In the previous four months, sales had risen a total of 15.2 percent.

NAR’s chief economist said the tax credit is working. “Home sales retrenched from a very strong improvement in July but continue to be much higher than before the stimulus. The first-time buyer tax credit is having the intended impact of bringing buyers into the market, allowing them to take advantage of very favorable affordability conditions,” he said. “Some of the give-back in closed sales appears to result from rising numbers of contracts entering the system, with some fallouts and a backlog contributing to a longer closing process, but the decline demonstrates we can’t take a housing rebound for granted.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 5.19 percent in August from 5.22 percent in July; the rate was 6.48 percent in August 2008.

An NAR practitioner survey shows first-time buyers purchased 30 percent of homes in August, and that distressed homes accounted for 31 percent of transactions; both were unchanged from July.

“The recent trend shows broad improvement in most of the country, but with an expected rise in foreclosures over the next 12 months we need to maintain a healthy level of ready buyers to absorb the inventory. An extension of the tax credit is critical to preserve incentives for financially qualified buyers to enter the market” said NAR’s chief economist.

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