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St. Louis Home Sales Down Over 30 percent in April; Worst decline of 20 major metros

Dennis Norman

St. Louis existing-home sales in April were down 30.1 percent from a year ago, after the prior month’s sales were down 20.3 percent from the year prior.  This disturbing trend points to a decrease in the number of home sales in St. Louis in 2011 from 2010, even though industry experts are predicting an increase in U.S. existing home sales this year over last.

Existing home sales in the U.S.

Today’s existing home sales report from the National Association of REALTORS® shows existing home sales in April were at at a seasonally adjusted-annual rate of 5.05 million units which is a decrease of 0.8 percent from the month before and is a decrease of 12.9 percent from a year ago.

Home prices increase for second-consecutive month….

The median home price in the U.S. in April was $163,700, an increase of 2.4 percent from the month before and a decrease of 5.0 percent from a year ago when the median price was $172,300.  The St. Louis median home price in April was $124, 100, a decrease of 6.3 percent from a year ago.

Number of homes for sale increases for the third-consecutive month….

The number of existing homes on the market increased in April by 9.9 percent to 3.870 million homes, but is down 3.9 percent from a year ago when there were 4.029 million homes for sale. Based upon the current rate of sales the supply that this inventory translates into increased by 10.8 percent to 9.2 months from 8.3 months the month before and is 10.8 percent higher than a year ago when the supply was 8.3 months.

Metro Home Sales and Prices –

NAR publishes existing home sales for major metropolitan areas of the U.S. Highlights from that report for April include:

  • Only three metro areas saw an increase in sales from a year ago with Miami-Ft. Lauderdale leading the way with a 18.0 percent increase in sales.
    • San Diego, CA had the second largest year-over-year sales increase at 4.8 percent .
    • Phoenix, AZ came in third with a 1.2 percent increase in sales.
  • St. Louis, MO, for the second consecutive month, had the largest decrease in sales from a year ago again this month, with a 30.1 percent decrease.
    • New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island had the second highest decrease in sales from a year ago with a 26.8 percent decrease, closely followed by Philadelphia, PA with a 24.1 percent decrease.
  • Only two metros also saw year-over-year increases in home prices in April.
    • San Antonio, TX, for the second-consecutive month, saw the largest one-year increase in home prices this month with an 3.6 percent increase, followed by Washington D.C. (also for the second-consecutive month) at 0.6 percent.
    • Atlanta, GA saw the biggest one-year decrease in home prices this month, with a decline of 18.8 percent, followed by Minneapolis-St. Paul with a 14.6 percent decline and Cincinnati with a 13.8 percent decline.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist,said the market is underperforming. “Given the great affordability conditions, job creation and pent-up demand, home sales should be stronger,” he said. “Although existing-home sales are expected to trend up unevenly through next year, unnecessarily tight credit is continuing to restrain the market, along with a steady level of low appraisals that result in contract cancellations.”

A parallel NAR practitioner survey shows 11 percent of Realtors® report a contract was cancelled in April from an appraisal coming in below the price negotiated between a buyer and seller, 10 percent had a contract delayed, and 14 percent said a contract was renegotiated to a lower sales price as a result of a low appraisal.

I don’t like “seasonally adjusted rates of sales”:

If you have been reading my posts for a while you know by now I don’t like “seasonally adjusted” numbers when artificial stimuli, such as tax-credits, can cause an unseasonal spike in sales activity. I much prefer to see the actual numbers and try to garner from them what is going on in the housing market.

The following are the ACTUAL Existing Home sales reported by NAR without any adjustment or fluff:

  • There were 444,000 existing homes sold in April which is an increase of 10.4 percent from the month before and a 14.9 percent decrease from a year ago.
  • Below are highlights from each region for April;
    • Northeast – 62,000 homes sold, an increase of 5.1 percent from the prior month a decrease of 34.0 percent from the year before.
    • Midwest – 96,000 homes sold, an increase of 12.9 percent from the prior month and a decrease of 20.0 percent from the year before.
    • South – 169,000 homes sold, an increase of 8.3 percent from the prior month and a decrease of 11.5 percent from the year before.
    • West – 117,000 homes sold, an increase of 14.7 percent from the prior month and the same as the year before.

Other highlights of the NAR Report for April 2011:

  • Distressed sales accounted for 37 percent of all home sales for the month, down from 40 percent the month before.
  • First-Time homebuyers accounted for 36 percent of the home sales for the month, up from 33 percent the month before.
  • Investors were the buyers of 20 percent of the homes for the month, down from from 22 percent the month before.
  • Repeat home buyers were responsible for approximately 44 percent of the month’s sales, down from 45 percent the month before.
  • Cash buyers were 31 percent of all sales for the month, down from the prior months’ record 35 percent.

My Take On the Numbers:

I keep calling it a “rocky bottom” and I would say this months numbers hold true to that….while the market appears to be trying to find the bottom, and shows some signs of stabilizing, it seems to be having a hard time doing so. Clearly, this is going to be a long, slow process, to see the market stabilize and eventually go into recovery mode.

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