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posted on 22 July 2015

June 2015 Existing Home Sales Headlines Say Sales Up Strongly. NAR Claims Prices At All Time High

Written by Steven Hansen

The headlines for existing home sales claim "Buyers have come back in force, leading to the strongest past two months in sales since early 2007". Our analysis of the unadjusted data shows that home sales did rebound - but that the rolling averages did not improve. Overall, existing home sales appear to continue in the long term improvement trend channel..

Econintersect Analysis:

  • Unadjusted sales rate of growth accelerated 8.6% month-over-month, up 13.2% year-over-year - sales growth rate trend is statistically unchanged using the 3 month moving average.
  • Unadjusted price rate of growth unchanged month-over-month, up 4.6% year-over-year - price growth rate trend is modestly improving using the 3 month moving average.
  • The homes for sale inventory was statistically unchanged this month, remains historically low for Junes, and is statistically unchanged from inventory levels one year ago).

NAR reported:

  • Sales up 3.2% month-over-month, up 9.6% year-over-year.
  • Prices up 6.5% year-over-year
  • The market expected annualized sales volumes of 5.30 to 5.46 million (consensus 5.40) vs the 5.49 million reported.

Unadjusted Year-over-Year Change in Existing Home Sales Volumes (blue line) - 3 Month Rolling Average (red line)

z existing1.PNG

The graph below presents unadjusted home sales volumes.

Unadjusted Monthly Home Sales Volumes

z existing2.PNG

Here are the headline words from the NAR analysts:

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says backed by June's solid gain in closings, this year's spring buying season has been the strongest since the downturn. "Buyers have come back in force, leading to the strongest past two months in sales since early 2007," he said. "This wave of demand is being fueled by a year-plus of steady job growth and an improving economy that's giving more households the financial wherewithal and incentive to buy."

Adds Yun, "June sales were also likely propelled by the spring's initial phase of rising mortgage rates, which usually prods some prospective buyers to buy now rather than wait until later when borrowing costs could be higher."

"Limited inventory amidst strong demand continues to push home prices higher, leading to declining affordability for prospective buyers," said Yun. "Local officials in recent years have rightly authorized permits for new apartment construction, but more needs to be done for condominiums and single-family homes."

NAR President Chris Polychron says Realtors® are reporting drastic imbalances of supply in relation to demand in many metro areas — especially in the West. "The demand for buying has really heated up this summer, leading to multiple bidders and homes selling at or above asking price. Furthermore, tight inventory conditions are being exacerbated by the fact that some homeowners are hesitant to sell because they're not optimistic they'll have adequate time to find an affordable property to move into."

Comparison of Home Price Indices - Case-Shiller 3 Month Average (blue line, left axis), CoreLogic (green lin.

z existing3.PNG

To remove the seasonality in home prices, here is a year-over-year graph which demonstrates a general improvement in home price rate of growth since mid-2013.

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)

z existing5.PNG

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 6.3% 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 June was $236,400, which is 6.5 percent above June 2014 and surpasses the peak median sales price set in July 2006 ($230,400). June's price increase also marks the 40th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

According to the NAR, all-cash sales accounted for 24% of sales this month.

The percent share of first-time buyers fell to 30 percent in June from 32 percent in May, but remained at or above 30 percent for the fourth consecutive month. A year ago, first-time buyers represented 28 percent of all buyers.

Matching the lowest share since December 2009, all-cash sales were 22 percent of transactions in June, down from 24 percent in May and 32 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 12 percent of homes in June (14 percent in May) — the lowest since August 2014 (also 12 percent) and down from 16 percent in June 2014. Sixty-six percent of investors paid cash in June.

Unadjusted Inventories are insignificantly above the levels of one year ago.

Total housing inventory3 at the end of June inched 0.9 percent to 2.30 million existing homes available for sale, and is 0.4 percent higher than a year ago (2.29 million). Unsold inventory is at a 5.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 5.1 months in May.

Unadjusted Total Housing Inventory

z existing4.png

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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