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posted on 22 November 2016

October 2016 Headline Existing Home Sales Improves

Written by Steven Hansen

The headlines for existing home sales improved and say "tightening labor market is beginning to push up wages and the economy has lately shown signs of greater expansion". 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 - there is significant variation between the adjusted and unadjusted data. 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 2.7 % month-over-month, up 0.5 % year-over-year - sales growth rate trend was marginally declining using the 3 month moving average.
  • Unadjusted price rate of growth accelerated 0.1 % month-over-month, up 4.4 % year-over-year - price growth rate trend marginally improved using the 3 month moving average.
  • The homes for sale inventory marginally declined this month, but remains historically low for Octobers, and is down 6.8 % from inventory levels one year ago).

NAR reported:

  • Sales up 2.0 % month-over-month, up 5.9 % year-over-year.
  • Prices up 6.0 % year-over-year
  • The market expected annualized sales volumes of 5.250 M to 5.450 million (consensus 5.350 million) vs the 5.60 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 the wave of sales activity the last two months represents a convincing autumn revival for the housing market. "October's strong sales gain was widespread throughout the country and can be attributed to the release of the unrealized pent-up demand that held back many would-be buyers over the summer because of tight supply," he said. "Buyers are having more success lately despite low inventory and prices that continue to swiftly rise above incomes."

Added Yun, "The good news is that the tightening labor market is beginning to push up wages and the economy has lately shown signs of greater expansion. These two factors and low mortgage rates have kept buyer interest at an elevated level so far this fall."

"The ramp-up in housing starts in October is a hopeful sign that overall supply can steadily increase enough to provide more choices for buyers and also moderate price growth," said Yun. "A prolonged continuation of the robust single-family starts pace seen last month (869,000) would go a long way in giving homeowners much-needed assurance that they can list their home for sale and find a new home to buy within a reasonable timeframe.

"As a result of the anticipated economic stimulus in early 2017, mortgage rates post-election have now surged to around 4 percent as investors expect a strengthening economy and higher inflation," said Yun. "In the short-term, some prospective buyers may rush to lock in their rate and buy now, while others — especially those in higher-priced markets — may be forced to delay as a larger monthly payment outstretches their budget."

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 October was $232,200, up 6.0 percent from October 2015 ($219,100). October's price increase marks the 56th consecutive month of year-over-year gains.

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

First-time buyers were 33 percent of sales in October, which is down from 34 percent in September but up from and 31 percent a year ago. NAR's 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellersreleased last month — revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 35 percent (32 percent in 2015), which is the highest since 2013 (38 percent).

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

Unadjusted Inventories are below the levels of one year ago.

Total housing inventory 3 at the end of October declined 0.5 percent to 2.02 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 4.3 percent lower than a year ago (2.11 million) and has fallen year-over-year for 17 straight months. Unsold inventory is at a 4.3-month supply at the current sales pace, which is down from 4.4 months in September.

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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