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posted on 20 October 2016

September 2016 Existing Home Sales Still Not Excellent

Written by Steven Hansen

The headlines for existing home sales improved by said "recent job growth is not yielding higher home sales". Our analysis of the unadjusted data is worse than the headlines.

Analyst Opinion of Existing Home Sales

We do not see sales as strong as the NAR suggests, but the good news is the jump in fist time buyers. The data overall is not terrible but there is no indication the rate of growth is improving.

Econintersect Analysis

  • Unadjusted sales rate of growth decelerated 4.1 % month-over-month, up 2.8 % year-over-year - sales growth rate trend was marginally declining using the 3 month moving average.
  • Unadjusted price rate of growth accelerated 0.2 % month-over-month, up 4.2 % year-over-year - price growth rate trend marginally improved using the 3 month moving average.
  • The homes for sale inventory marginally grew this month, but remains historically low for Septembers, and is down 6.8 % from inventory levels one year ago).

NAR reported:

  • Sales up 3.2 % month-over-month, up 0.6 % year-over-year.
  • Prices up 5.6 % year-over-year
  • The market expected annualized sales volumes of 5.250 M to 5.450 million (consensus 5.350 million) vs the 5.47 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 recent job growth is not yielding higher home sales. "Healthy labor markets in most the country should be creating a sustained demand for home purchases," he said. "However, there's no question that after peaking in June, sales in a majority of the country have inched backwards because inventory isn't picking up to tame price growth and replace what's being quickly sold."

"Inventory has been extremely tight all year and is unlikely to improve now that the seasonal decline in listings is about to kick in," added Yun. "Unfortunately, there won't be much relief from new home construction, which continues to be grossly inadequate in relation to demand."

"There's hope the leap in sales to first-time buyers can stick through the rest of the year and into next spring," explained Yun. "The market fundamentals — primarily consistent job gains and affordable mortgage rates — are there for the steady rise in first-timers needed to finally reverse the decline in the homeownership rate."

NAR President Tom Salomone stated unfortunately, overly burdensome fees at the GSEs are making homeownership difficult for moderate-income buyers. Fannie and Freddie can reduce the cost of borrowing while still protecting taxpayers, and we're hopeful they'll take these steps to ensure prospective buyers are able to enter the market," he said.

Comparison of Home Price Indices - Case-Shiller 3 Month Average (blue line, left axis), CoreLogic (green line, left axis), NAR 3 month rolling average (red line,right axis)

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-2012.

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 does a more complete analysis of home prices with the Case-Shiller analysis. 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 relatively 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 September was $234,200, up 5.6 percent from September 2015 ($221,700). September's price increase marks the 55thconsecutive month of year-over-year gains.

According to the NAR, all-cash sales accounted for 21 % of sales this month.

Matching the highest share since July 2012, first-time buyers were 34 percent of sales in September, which is up from 31 percent in August and 29 percent a year ago. First-time buyers represented 30 percent of sales in all of 2015.

All-cash sales were 21 percent of transactions in September, down from 22 percent in August and 24 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14 percent of homes in September, up from 13 percent both in August and a year ago. Sixty-five percent of investors paid in cash in September.

Unadjusted Inventories are below the levels of one year ago.

Total housing inventory at the end of September rose 1.5 percent to 2.04 million existing homes available for sale, but is still 6.8 percent lower than a year ago (2.19 million) and has now fallen year-over-year for 16 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 4.5-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.6 months in August.

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 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.

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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