Limited supplies of housing inventory held back existing-home sales in May, but sales maintained a strong lead over year-ago levels and home prices are on a sustained uptrend in all regions, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.
Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, declined 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.55 million in May from 4.62 million in April, but are 9.6 percent above the 4.15 million-unit pace in May 2011.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said inventory shortages in certain areas have been building all year: "The slight pullback in monthly home sales is more likely due to supply constraints rather than softening demand. The normal seasonal upturn in inventory did not occur this spring. Even with the monthly decline, home sales have moved markedly higher with 11 consecutive months of gains over the same month a year earlier."
There are broad-based shortages of inventory in the lower price ranges in much of the country except the Northeast, and in the West, supply is extremely tight in all price ranges except for the upper end. "REALTORS® in Western states have been calling for an expedited process to get additional foreclosed properties onto the market because they have more buyers than available property," adds Yun. Widespread inventory shortages also are found in much of Florida.
Total housing inventory at the end of May slipped 0.4 percent to 2.49 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.6-month supply at the current sales pace; there was a 6.5-month supply in April. Listed inventory is 20.4 percent below a year ago when there was a 9.1-month supply. Unsold inventory has trended down from a record 4.04 million in July 2007; supplies reached a cyclical peak of 12.1 months in July 2010.
"The recovery is occurring despite excessively tight credit conditions and higher downpayment requirements, which are negating the impact of record high affordability conditions," Yun explains.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types rose 7.9 percent to $182,600 in May from a year ago, the third consecutive month of year over year price gains. The last time there were three back-to-back price increases from the same month a year earlier was from March to May of 2006. "Some of the price gain results from a shrinking share distressed homes in the sales mix," Yun explains.
Distressed homes - foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts - accounted for 25 percent of May sales (15 percent were foreclosures and 10 percent were short sales), down from 28 percent in April and 31 percent in May 2011. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 19 percent below market value in May, while short sales were discounted 14 percent.
All-cash sales slipped to 28 percent of transactions in May from 29 percent in April; they were 30 percent in May 2011. Investors, who account for the bulk of cash sales, purchased 17 percent of homes in May, down from 20 percent in April and 19 percent in May 2011.
Source: The National Association of REALTORS®
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