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Economic Watch: Existing Home Sales Slow

September 21, 2015

By Evan Lockridge

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Following three straight months of gains, existing–home sales dipped in August, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors.

Total existing–home sales, which are completed transactions that include single–family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co–ops, fell 4.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.31 million in August from a slight downward revision in July.

Despite last month's decline, sales have risen year–over–year for 11 consecutive months and are 6.2% above a year ago.

"Sales activity was down in many parts of the country last month, especially in the South and West, as the persistent summer theme of tight inventory levels likely deterred some buyers," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. "The good news for the housing market is that price appreciation the last two months has started to moderate from the unhealthier rate of growth seen earlier this year."

The median existing–home price for all housing types in August was $228,700, which is 4.7% above August 2014’s level and marks the 42nd consecutive month of year–over–year gains.

"With sales and overall demand higher than a year ago and supply mostly unchanged, low inventories will likely continue to limit options for those looking to buy this fall, even with the overall pool of buyers shrinking because of seasonal factors," said Yun.

Single–family home sales fell 5.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.69 million in August, but are still 6.1% above the pace a year ago. Existing condominium and co–op sales dropped 1.6% in August, but are up 6.9% from a year earlier.

Meantime, Yun said there are no big worries for housing when it comes to talk by the Federal Reserve about raising interest rates.

"When the Federal Reserve decides to lift short–term rates — likely later this year — the impact on mortgage rates and overall housing demand will likely not be pronounced,"  Yun said. "With job growth holding steady, prospective buyers can handle any gradual rise in mortgage rates — especially if today's stronger labor market finally leads to a boost in wages and homebuilding accelerates to alleviate supply shortages and slow price growth in some markets."

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