Existing-Home Sales Forge Ahead in November
WASHINGTON (December 21, 2016) — A big surge in the Northeast and a smaller gain in the South pushed existing-home sales up in November for the third consecutive month, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 0.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.61 million in November from a downwardly revised 5.57 million in October. November's sales pace is now the highest since February 2007 (5.79 million) and is 15.4 percent higher than a year ago (4.86 million) .
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says it's been an outstanding three-month stretch for the housing market as 2016 nears the finish line. "The healthiest job market since the Great Recession and the anticipation of some buyers to close on a home before mortgage rates accurately rose from their historically low level have combined to drive sales higher in recent months," he said. "Furthermore, it's no coincidence that home shoppers in the Northeast — where price growth has been tame all year — had the most success last month."
The median existing-home price for all housing types in November was $234,900, up 6.8 percent from November 2015 ($220,000). November's price increase marks the 57th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
Total housing inventory at the end of November dropped 8.0 percent to 1.85 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 9.3 percent lower than a year ago (2.04 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 18 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 4.0-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.3 months in October.
"Existing housing supply at the beginning of the year was inadequate and is now even worse heading into 2017," added Yun. "Rental units are also seeing this shortage. As a result, both home prices and rents continue to far outstrip incomes in much of the country."
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate (link is external) for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage leaped to 3.77 percent in November from 3.47 percent in October (highest rate since January at 3.87 percent). The average commitment rate for all of 2015 was 3.85 percent.
First-time buyers were 32 percent of sales in November, which is down from 33 percent in October but up from 30 percent a year ago. NAR's 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers — released in November 5 — revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 35 percent (32 percent in 2015), which is the highest since 2013 (38 percent).
"First-time buyers in higher priced cities will be most affected by rising prices and mortgage rates next year and will likely have to stretch their budget or make compromises on home size, price or location," said Yun.
Properties typically stayed on the market for 43 days in November, up from 41 days in October but down considerably from a year ago (54 days). Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 110 days in November, while foreclosures sold in 55 days and non-distressed homes took 41 days. Forty-two percent of homes sold in November were on the market for less than a month.
NAR President William E. Brown, a Realtor® from Alamo, California, says consumers looking to buy in 2017 should find a Realtor®, seek a preapproval from a lender and start their home search now. "It's never too early to begin viewing listings online and in person with a Realtor® to identify what's available within the budget and where," said Brown. "There are fewer available homes during the winter months but also fewer buyers. With mortgage rates and prices expected to increase as the year goes on, the first few months of 2017 could be an opportune time to close on a home."
Inventory data from Realtor.com® reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in November were Billings, Mont., 23 days; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 41 days; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., 42 days; Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn., 45 days; and Provo-Orem, Utah, at 46 days.
All-cash sales were 21 percent of transactions in November, down from 22 percent in October and 27 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 12 percent of homes in November, down from 13 percent in October and 16 percent a year ago. Fifty-eight percent of investors paid in cash in November, which matches the lowest share since August 2009.
Distressed sales 6 — foreclosures and short sales — rose to 6 percent in November, up from 5 percent in October but down from 9 percent a year ago. Four percent of November sales were foreclosures and 2 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 17 percent below market value in November (18 percent in October), while short sales were discounted 16 percent (unchanged from October).