Existing home sales fell in June, which was no surprise, but eased somewhat less than had been expected. In all, sales of such residences declined by 5.1% last month, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million homes, according to the National Association of Realtors. The declines were broad based, with just the Northeast region showing an increase in sales last month. Declines ranging from 6.5% to 9.3% were recorded in the Midwest, the South, and the West. The gain in the Northeast, the smallest of the four regions in terms of units sold, was 7.9%.
By definition, existing-home sales are completed transactions that include single-family units, townhouses, condominiums, and co-ops. The June total compares with the 5.66 million units sold in May. However, such sales last month still exceeded the year-earlier total of 4.89 million units.
The latest falloff, which, as noted, was somewhat less steep than had been forecast, reflected not only the slowing economy and, in particular, the nation's high jobless levels, but also was the result of the April 30th expiration of the homebuyers' tax credit. There earlier had been a so-called spring surge, as many buyers had rushed to get in under the tax credit wire. Now, the sector is paying a price for that prior surge.
Overall, the market remains depressed, only less so than a year ago, when the nation was just emerging from a steep and prolonged recession that had begun in late 2007. Prices, meantime, were little changed from the month before, while inventories went up, reaching an 8.9-month supply from 8.3 months in May. That is not a welcome development. Also, a third of the sales were distressed units, including foreclosures, which is also an unfortunate end-product of the recent recession.
Going forward, we still think the worst is over on the housing front, but that any ensuing recovery will be spotty, at best, over the next year or two. The damage to the pricing structure, which has been extensive, and the worrisome employment situation argue against anything more than an unprepossessing recovery.