Approximately 85% all residential home sales are existing homes. The large sample size makes the monthly NAR report representative of the country’s housing market as a whole than then new home sale stats released by the US Commerce Department tomorrow. However, existing home sales are based on closings so it lags the current market while new home sales are measured at time of contract.
The housing market has been the main driver of the U.S. economy this decade, accounting for 50 percent of the overall growth and more than half of the private payroll jobs created since 2001, Merrill Lynch said in a report on Aug. 15.
Today the NAR released their existing home sale statistics for August and the sesults were quite robust [Bloomberg]. The number of sales for August increased 2% over the prior month and 7.8% over the prior year suggesting that the rate of existing home sales has increased this summer.
The median sales price of of a US existing home was $220,000, a record. It was up 15.8% from the prior year.
The NAR expects housing demand to continue to increase due to the Hurricane Katrina. The cleanup will provide a drag on the economy keeping mortgage rates low, the primary driver of the current high level of sales volume. Steady job creation, easy access to financing have kept demand high.
The results were somewhat of surprise given the traditionally slow summer months and the concerned positioning the Fed has taken on the housing market this summer. However, these statistics do not reflect the August market due to the delay between contract and closing date.
Tags: Hurricane Katrina, NAR, National Association of Realtors
Soft landing for hot markets
BY DAVID LEREAH
With price gains in markets remaining strong, analysts continue to vie with one another to yell “housing bubble” the loudest. Given the debacle in the equities markets five years ago, the vigilance in ringing alarm bells about housing is understandable but wrong.
Thanks to strong fundamentals led by ongoing boomer demand, only two things can really derail our strong markets right now: a significant increase in mortgage rates (by at least two or three percentage points) or a sharp, damaging recession accompanied by a large drop in jobs (say 4 percent to 6 percent). Either of these scenarios would dampen demand, leading to rising home inventories and weakening prices.
But neither of those scenarios is in the cards. The U.S. economy created 207,000 jobs in July, the largest gain since April. And mortgage rates in mid-August were hovering below 6 percent.
The more likely future for housing is a classic soft landing. Although prices will decline in a few overheated markets, in most areas home prices will continue to rise, albeit at a modest, more sustainable pace than in the past few years.
At the same time, mortgage rates will continue to rise, making residential properties less affordable, inhibiting demand a bit. That will soften home inventories, prompting price appreciation to slow. This scenario is already unfolding in key markets.
Take Las Vegas. The city was on top of the housing world two years ago, experiencing 52 percent price appreciation. Price growth eased to 30 percent last year, and in mid-2005 it stands at 15 percent. This is air slowly leaking from a balloon, not a bubble popping.
The reason Las Vegas is experiencing a soft rather than a hard landing is its market fundamentals: People are moving into the city, not out, and the economy is adding workers, not laying them off.
And so it goes for much of the country. The Washington, D.C., metro area, for example, added 110,000 jobs over the past two years but only 57,000 new homes. That keeps demand ahead of supply. But with mortgage rates inching up, price appreciation is expected to slow to 10 percent from 20 percent before settling in the 4 percent to 6 percent range for the remainder of the decade.
The message to our housing vigilantes is this: Bubble talk makes for good TV but bad economics.
Lereah is senior vice president and chief economist for the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORSÂ®.
The impact of Hurricane Katrina on Gulf Coast housing stock is likely to dwarf that of previous hurricanes. Expect shortages and price increases in construction material and shortages in labor.
Hurricane (year) Andrew (1992) Jeanne, Ivan, Frances, Charley (2004) Katrina (2005) No. of homes destroyed 28,000 27,500 Likely more than 100,000 Plywood costs (per 1,000 square feet) $321 (up from $222) Slight decrease Large increase forecast Pine framing costs (per 1,000 board feet) $308 (up from $264) Slight decrease Large increase forecast Source: “Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Building Material and Prices,” National Association of Home Builders, 2005, and news reports
Easing expected. Practitioners see strong current home sale conditions, but their confidence in markets in the months ahead is tempered. Practitioners expect buyer traffic to slow while seller traffic remains robust, potentially setting up an imbalance between supply and demand. Practitioner confidence was surveyed in August and looks ahead six months.
Slight drop. Existing single-family home sales declined in July from a record in June but remain at the third highest level on record. Sales of single-family houses, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops slipped 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 7.16 million from a record of 7.35 million in June.
September 1 Pending Home Sales Index: 125.1
The PHSI, based on signed contracts for existing homes, is an indicator of home sales expected to close over the following two months. An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, the benchmark year