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Home sales reverse course in September

U.S. existing-home sales made a surprising monthly gain in September after falling the previous three months and after sustaining a market shock from two back-to-back hurricanes in the South region.

Overall existing-home sales ran at an annual pace of 5.39 million, up by 0.7 percent over the August level, but down by 1.5 percent compared to a year earlier, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported. It was the first year-over-year decline in sales in a year.

housesales“Sales activity likely would have been somewhat stronger if not for the fact that parts of Texas and South Florida – hit by hurricanes Harvey and Irma – saw temporary, but notable declines,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said.   

Sales in September in the South fell 0.9 percent to an annual rate of 2.13 million, and were 2.3 percent lower than a year earlier. In other regions, the existing-home sales numbers either rose or remained unchanged.

Despite the slight month-over-month uptick in the overall September numbers, Yun gave a mostly negative assessment of recent trends, with sales being hampered by low inventories of homes in affordable price ranges and rising home prices.

“Home sales in recent months remain at their lowest level of the year and are unable to break through, despite considerable buyer interest in most parts of the country,” Yun said.

Home-price growth cooled off in September. The median home price rose by 4.2 percent year over year to $245,100, down from a 5.6 percent jump in August. September marked the 67th consecutive month that home prices have risen year over year, NAR said. Inventories rose 1.6 percent for the month, to an estimated 1.9 million existing homes available for sale, but inventory in September was still 6.4 percent lower than a year earlier, NAR said.

NAR estimated that the share of first-time homebuyers this past September fell 2 percentage points, to 29 percent of all sales. 


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