One day after the U.S. Commerce Department released underwhelming statistics on homebuilding and new building permits for August, the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a large industry trade group, posted better-than-expected results on sales of existing homes, or housing re-sales.
Specifically, the trade group reported that such sales had increased last month, reaching their highest level in six-and-a-half years, or before the start of the long and very severe housing depression. Moreover, prices pushed higher, as well, and have now climbed at a double-digit year-to-year rate for nine straight months.
All told, sales of single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums, and co-ops rose 1.7% in August to an annual rate of 5.48 million. That was above the consensus forecast of 5.24 million homes and the unrevised July total of 5.39 million homes. A year ago, 4.84 million residences had been sold.
In all, sales have reached their highest point since February, 2007, when volume had hit 5.79 million units. Moreover, year-over-year increases have now been recorded for 26 consecutive months.
Lawrence Yun, the NAR's Chief Economist, said, however, that ''the market may be experiencing a temporary peak.'' He went on to suggest that ''rising interest rates pushed more buyers to close deals, but monthly sales are likely to be uneven in the months ahead from several market frictions.'' Of note, he went on, ''tight inventory is limiting choices in many areas, higher mortgage rates means affordability isn't as favorable as it was, and restrictive mortgage lending standards are keeping some otherwise qualified buyers from completing a purchase.''
As to inventories, they were up a scant 0.4% last month, and are still at just 4.9 months supply--a supply in the range of some six months is considered healthy and normal. Meantime, prices, as noted, continued to rise, with the data showing that the median price of a re-sale had climbed to $212,700 in August. That was nearly 15% ahead of the year-earlier price.
One thing to note, however, is the increase in mortgage rates, which have now climbed by more than a full percentage point since last year's cyclical low. Should such rates increase much further the housing market could feel some headwinds. Thus, yesterday's decision by the Fed to keep its bond-buying pace intact for now is, understandably, good news for the recovering housing market. On the whole, this was a good report, and one that gives us some confidence that housing should remain supportive to the aggregate economic expansion going forward.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.