November 2014 Existing Home Sales Well Under Expectations But Rolling Averages Improve
Written by Steven Hansen
The headlines for existing home sales say that sales lost momentum - with sales declining year-over-year (seasonally adjusted data). Our analysis of the unadjusted data shows similar deceleration - but the unadjusted three month rolling averages for sales are positive this month after being in contraction all of 2014 and are accelerating. Bottom line - this was a bad month in a generally improving trend.
- Unadjusted sales growth decelerated 7.2% month-over-month, down 2.8% year-over-year – sales growth rate trend is accelerating (and marginally in expansion) using the 3 month moving average.
- Unadjusted price growth decelerated 0.2% month-over-month (normal for this time of year), up 3.5% year-over-year – price growth rate trend is statistically improving using the 3 month moving average.
- The homes for sale inventory declined marginally this month, and is historically low for Novembers (but higher than inventory levels one year ago).
- Sales down 6.1% month-over-month, up 2.1% year-over-year.
- Prices up 5.0% year-over-year
- The market expected annualized sales volumes of 4.970 to 5.350 million (consensus 5.200) vs the 4.930 million reported.
Unadjusted Year-over-Year Change in Existing Home Sales Volumes (blue line) – 3 Month Rolling Average (red line)
The graph below presents unadjusted home sales volumes.
Unadjusted Monthly Home Sales Volumes
Here are the headline words from the NAR analysts:
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says sales activity was choppy throughout the country in November and housing inventory began its seasonal decline. “Fewer people bought homes last month despite interest rates being at their lowest levels of the year,” he said. “The stock market swings in October may have impacted some consumers’ psyche and therefore led to fewer November closings. Furthermore, rising home values are causing more investors to retreat from the market.”
“Lagging homebuilding activity continues to hamstring overall housing supply and is still too low in relation to this year’s promising job growth,” says Yun. “Much faster price and rent appreciation – easily exceeding wage growth – will occur next year unless new construction picks up measurably.”
NAR President Chris Polychron says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s new low downpayment program should improve access to credit for responsible buyers. “NAR applauds Fannie and Freddie’s commitment to homeownership by serving creditworthy borrowers who lack the resources for substantial downpayments plus closing costs with its new downpayment program,” he said. “The new program mitigates risk with strong underwriting and ensures that responsible buyers have access to safe and affordable mortgage credit. Furthermore, NAR believes lenders must do their part to ensure loans are prudently underwritten and are made available to qualified borrowers.”
Comparison of Home Price Indices – Case-Shiller 3 Month Average (blue line, left axis), CoreLogic (green line, left axis) and National Association of Realtors three month average (red line, right axis)
To remove the seasonality in home prices, here is a year-over-year graph which demonstrates a general decline in home price rate of growth - although this month home prices improved.
Comparison of Home Price Indices on a Year-over-Year Basis – Case-Shiller 3 Month Average (blue bars), CoreLogic (yellow bars) and National Association of Realtors three month average (red bars)
Econintersect will do a more complete analysis of home prices when the Case-Shiller data is released. The graphs above on prices use a three month rolling average of the NAR data, and show a 3.6% year-over-year gain.
Homes today are still affordable according to the NAR’s Housing Affordability Index.
Unadjusted Home Affordability Index
This affordability index measures the degree to which a typical family can afford the monthly mortgage payments on a typical home.
Value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index above 100 signifies that family earning the median income has more than enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment. For example, a composite housing affordability index (COMPHAI) of 120.0 means a family earning the median family income has 120% of the income necessary to qualify for a conventional loan covering 80 percent of a median-priced existing single-family home. An increase in the COMPHAI then shows that this family is more able to afford the median priced home.
The home price situation according to the NAR:
The median existing-home price for all housing types in November was $205,300, which is 5.0 percent above November 2013. This marks the 33rd consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.
According to the NAR, all-cash sales accounted for 25% of sales this month.
The percent share of first-time buyers in November climbed to 31 percent, up from October (29 percent) and is the highest share since October 2012 (also 31 percent). First-time buyers have represented an average of 29 percent of buyers through November of this year.
All-cash sales were 25 percent of transactions in November, down from 27 percent in October and 32 percent in November of last year.
Inventories declined – but are higher than the levels one year ago.
Total housing inventory at the end of November fell 6.7 percent to 2.09 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace – unchanged from last month. Despite the tightening in supply, unsold inventory remains 2.0 percent higher than a year ago, when there were 2.05 million existing homes available for sale.
Unadjusted Total Housing Inventory
Caveats on Use of NAR Existing Home Sales Data
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) is a trade organization. Their analysis tends to understate the bad, and overstate the good. However, the raw (and unadjusted) data is released which allows a complete unbiased analysis. Econintersect analyzes only using the raw data. Also note the National Association of Realtors (NAR) new methodology now has moderate back revision to the data – so it is best to look at trends, and not get too excited about each month’s release.
The NAR re-benchmarked their data in their November 2011 existing home sales data release reducing their recent reported home sales volumes by an average of 15%. The NAR stated benchmarking will be an annual process, and the 2010 data will need to be benchmarked again next year.
Also released today were periodic benchmark revisions with downward adjustments to sales and inventory data since 2007, led by a decline in for-sale-by-owners. Although rebenchmarking resulted in lower adjustments to several years of home sales data, the month-to-month characterization of market conditions did not change. There are no changes to home prices or month’s supply.
Existing home sales is one area the government does not report data – and it is easy to assume that an organization whose purpose is to paint the housing industry in a good light would inflate their data. However, Econintersect is assuming in its analysis that the NAR numbers are correct.
The NAR’s home price data has been questioned by others also. However, Econintersectanalysis shows a very good home price correlation to Case-Shiller, CoreLogic’s HPI, and LPS, especially when three-month moving averages are used – as shown in the graph earlier in this article.
Econintersect determines the month-over-month change by subtracting the current month’s year-over-year change from the previous month’s year-over-year change. This is the best of the bad options available to determine month-over-month trends – as the preferred methodology would be to use multi-year data (but the New Normal effects and the Great Recession distort historical data).
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