The housing market remains resilient, albeit with a few nicks and bumps along the way. To wit, following last week's report of a sharp drop in both housing starts and building permits in June, many pundits have seen that surprisingly weak data as being just an aberration, and they fully expected the subsequent surveys on sales of existing homes, issued minutes ago, and that on new home sales, to be out on Wednesday morning, to be much more supportive.
In some respects, the first of those follow-up data points, sales of existing residences, did not meet expectations. In fact, instead of increasing modestly from May's downwardly revised 5.14 million unit annual rate (initially tabulated at 5.18 million homes), as many had been forecasting, there were, instead, 5.08 million home sold on a 12-month basis.
However, this latest series should be seen in perspective. For example, existing home sales remained well ahead of the comparable figure from a year earlier, while the median price of a home sold has now shown seven straight months of double-digit increases. These metrics hardly denote a weakening housing trend.
Moreover, as Lawrence Yun, the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, the trade group putting out this report acknowledges, '' there is enough momentum in the market, even with higher interest rates.'' He also intoned that ''affordability conditions remain favorable in most of the country, and we're still dealing with a large pent-up demand.''
Further, total housing inventory at the end of June of existing homes available for sale totaled just 2.19 million residences. That equates to a 5.2 months supply. Listed inventory remains 7.6% below a year earlier, and at a 5.2-month supply is below the typical inventory rate of some six months. At the trough of the cycle, inventories had been closing in on a year.
Finally, distressed homes, that is foreclosures and short sales, were 15% of total sales last month, down from 18% in May, and are the lowest since monthly tracking began in May of 2008, near the trough of the cycle. Such a mix change also is positive. Thus, in spite of the small sales reversal, this report must be seen as positive in the main, we believe. The fewer foreclosures and short sales being made--both of which are at large price discounts, also is helping to underpin the median price of a home. All told, then, this was a decent report, although not an eye opener.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.