US home sales spike up
According to the National Association of Realtors, existing-home sales in U.S. surged for the third straight month in November 2017, and reached their strongest pace in almost 11 years. All major regions except for the West saw a significant hike in sales activity last month.
Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, jumped 5.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.81 million in November from an upwardly revised 5.50 million in October. After last month’s increase, sales are 3.8 percent higher than a year ago and are at their strongest pace since December 2006 (6.42 million).
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says home sales in most of the country expanded at a tremendous clip in November. “Faster economic growth in recent quarters, the booming stock market and continuous job gains are fueling substantial demand for buying a home as 2017 comes to an end,” he said. “As evidenced by a subdued level of first-time buyers and increased share of cash buyers, move-up buyers with considerable down payments and those with cash made up a bulk of the sales activity last month. The odds of closing on a home are much better at the upper end of the market, where inventory conditions continue to be markedly better.”
The median existing-home price for all housing types in November was $248,000, up 5.8 percent from November 2016 ($234,400). November’s price increase marks the 69th straight month of year-over-year gains.
Total housing inventory at the end of November dropped 7.2 percent to 1.67 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 9.7 percent lower than a year ago (1.85 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 30 consecutive months. Unsold inventory is at a 3.4-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.0 months a year ago.
“The anticipated rise in mortgage rates next year could further cut into affordability if these staggeringly low supply levels persist,” said Yun. “Price appreciation is too fast in a lot of markets right now. The increase in homebuilder optimism must translate to significantly more new construction in 2018 to help ease these acute inventory shortages.”
First-time buyers were 29 percent of sales in November, which is down from 32 percent both in October and a year ago. NAR’s 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released earlier this year – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 34 percent.
Matching the highest share since May, all-cash sales were 22 percent of transactions in November, which is up from 20 percent in October and 21 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in November, up from 13 percent last month and unchanged from a year ago.
“The elevated presence of investors paying in cash continues to add a layer of frustration to the supply and affordability headwinds aspiring first-time buyers are experiencing,” said Yun. “The healthy labor market and higher wage gains are expected to further strengthen buyer demand from young adults next year. Their prospects for becoming homeowners will only improve if more lower-priced and smaller-sized homes come onto the market.”
Properties typically stayed on the market for 40 days in November, which is up from 34 days in October but down from 43 days a year ago. Forty-four percent of homes sold in November were on the market for less than a month.