Existing home sales drops in October; down over 25 percent from year ago

Dennis Norman
Today’s existing home sales report from theNational Association of REALTORS(R) shows existing home sales in October were at at a seasonally adjusted-annual rate of 4.43 million units which is a decrease of 2.2 percent from September and is a decline of 25.9 percent from a year ago.

Prices drop for fourth consecutive month in October-

The median home price in the U.S. in October was $170,500, a slight decrease from September’s revised median price of $171,500 and a decrease of 0.9 percent from a year ago when the median price was $172,000.

Inventory levels decrease for the month- still up from a year ago-

The number of existing homes on the market decreased in October by 3.4 percent to 3.86 million homes, but is up 8.4 percent from a year ago when there were 3.56 million homes for sale. Based upon the current rate of sales the supply that this inventory translates into dropped by 0.9 percent to 10.5 months from 10.6 months in September, but is still 45.8 percent higher than a year ago when the supply was only 7.2 months.

Metro Home Sales and Prices –

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

  • None of the metro areas saw increased sales from the year before…in fact, all the metros saw double-digit decreases in sales in October 2010 vs October 2009.
  • Miami/Ft Lauderdale, FL had the lowest decrease in sales from a year ago with a 17.3 percent decrease.
    • Phoenix,AZ had the second lowest decrease in sales from a year ago with a 19.7 percent decrease.
    • San Diego, CA had the third lowest decrease with a 21.6 percent decrease from a year ago.
  • Seven of the metros had a decrease in home prices from October 2009 to October 2010 led by Atlanta with a decrease of 10.6 percent. St. Louis, MO came in a close second with a 10.2 percent decrease in home prices.
    • Washington, D.C. saw the largest one-year increase in home prices with a 8.4 percent increase.
    • Indianapolis, IN came in second with a 6.1 percent increase in home prices.
    • Boston had a 5.9 percent one -year increase in home prices making it the third highest in the US.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the recent sales pattern can be expected to continue. “The housing market is experiencing an uneven recovery, and a temporary foreclosure stoppage in some states is likely to have held back a number of completed sales. Still, sales activity is clearly off the bottom and is attempting to settle into normal sustainable levels,” he said. “Based on current and improving job market conditions, and from attractive affordability conditions, sales should steadily improve to healthier levels of above 5 million by spring of next year.

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 359,000 existing homes sold in October which is a decrease of 5.0 percent from September and a 27.9 percent decrease from a year ago.
  • Below are highlights from each region:
    • Northeast – 61,000 homes sold in October, a decrease of 4.7 percent from September and a decrease of 29.1 percent from the year before.
    • Midwest – 72,000 homes sold in October, a decrease of 12.2 percent from September and a decrease of 35.1 percent from the year before.
    • South – 140,000 homes sold in October, a decrease of 5.4 percent from September and a decrease of 26.3 percent from the year before.
    • West – 86,000 homes sold in October, an increase of 2.4 percent from September and a decrease of 22.5 percent from the year before.

Other highlights of the NAR Report:

  • Distressed sales accounted for 34 percent of all home sales in October, down slightly from 35 percent in September.
  • First-Time homebuyers accounted for 32 percent of the home sales in October, the same as September.
  • Investors were the buyers of 19 percent of the homes in October, up slights from 18 percent in September.
  • Repeat home buyers were responsible for approximately 49 percent of October’s sales, a slight decrease from 50 percent in September.

My Take On the Numbers:

My opinion hasn’t changed since last month which was:

I think the overall U.S. housing market has, on average, more or less found it’s “bottom” in terms of sales. I think we are going to see sales rates bounce up and down as we go forward moving toward a somewhat sluggish recovery and, along the way, we are going to see more price movement as the market demands. In the short term, I think we are going to see some more price degradation in many markets, but my expectation would be at modest levels, before leveling off.

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