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Home sales’ slight, but expected hiccup

Existing home sales fell slightly for the month but remain higher than last year and various housing stats are improving despite the expected hiccup.

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Existing home sales take a dip

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing home sales fell 1.9 percent in September compared to August, and while these completed transactions fell just after hitting their highest level in four years, they are up an impressive 10.7 percent compared to September. This marks the 27th consecutive month with above year-ago levels.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said a decline was expected. “Affordability has fallen to a five-year low as home price increases easily outpaced income growth,” he said. “Expected rising mortgage interest rates will further lower affordability in upcoming months. Next month we may see some delays associated with the government shutdown.”

Breakdown: median prices, types of sales

NAR reports the national median price for completed transactions hit $199,200 in September, up 11.7 percent from September 2012, the tenth consecutive month of double-digit annual increases.

Distressed homes accounted for 14 percent of sales, up 2.0 percent from August, which marked the lowest share since tracking began in October 2008. “Lower levels in the share of distressed sales account for some of the growth in median price,” NAR added.

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Fully 9.0 percent of sales in September were foreclosures, which sold for an average discount of 16 percent below market value, and short sales accounted for 5 percent of sales, averaging a 12 percent discount.

Inventory levels and time on market

Housing inventory in September was unchanged for the month, representing a 5.0 month supply at the current sales pace. Unsold inventory rose 1.8 percent for the year.

The median time on market was 50 days in September, up a full week from August, but much further than the 70 days on market in September 2012. Short sales have a median time on market of 93 days, foreclosures sold in an average 43 days, and non-distressed homes took 49 days.

More than one in three homes sold in September were on the market for under a month.

Who’s buying?

NAR reports that first time buyers is still at 28 percent, down from 32 percent for the year. All-cash sales went up a percentage point to 33 percent, and individual investors purchased 19 percent of homes in September. Last month, 74 percent of investors paid cash.

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Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast declined 2.8 percent to an annual rate of 690,000 in September, but are 15.0 percent above September 2012. The median price in the Northeast was $240,900, up 2.3 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest fell 5.3 percent in September to a pace of 1.25 million, but are 12.6 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $158,400, which is 9.0 percent above September 2012.

In the South, existing-home sales declined 1.4 percent to an annual level of 2.10 million in September, but are 9.9 percent above September 2012. The median price in the South was $171,600, up 13.9 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West rose 1.6 percent to a pace of 1.25 million in September, and are 7.8 percent higher than a year ago. With ongoing inventory restrictions, the median price in the West rose to $286,300, which is 16.8 percent above September 2012.

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Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.

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