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The Mortgage Corner

July existing-home sales posted the largest single month gain on record. Including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – sales rose 7.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.24 million units in July from a level of 4.89 million in June, and are 5.0 percent above the 4.99 million-unit pace in July 2008.  The last time sales rose for four consecutive months was in June 2004, and the last time sales were higher than a year earlier was November 2005.

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Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said he is encouraged.  “The housing market has decisively turned for the better.  A combination of first-time buyers taking advantage of the housing stimulus tax credit and greatly improved affordability conditions are contributing to higher sales,” he said.

“Because price-to-income ratios have fallen below historical trends, there are more all-cash offers.  In some recovering markets like San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Orlando, the demand for foreclosed and lower priced homes has spiked, and a lack of inventory is becoming a common complaint,” Yun said.

This is while mortgage rates hover at record low levels, with the 30-yr conforming fixed rate at 4.75 percent in most states, due to the economic climate. Even so-called jumbo ARM rates for loans above the single-family high-balance conforming limit of $729,750 have recovered, though only for those with excellent credit and a 30 percent down payment.

First-time buyers purchased 30 percent of homes in July, while distressed homes accounted for 31 percent of transactions, down from the 40 percent of recent months. But the average percentage of homes in foreclosure is under 5 percent, with just Florida, Nevada, and Arizona higher. Those loans that are 90 days+ delinquent in payments could add to the total, though typically 75 percent eventually catch up in their payments.

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Total housing inventory at the end of July rose 7.3 percent to 4.09 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.4-month supply at the current sales pace, which was unchanged from June because of the strong sales gain.  Raw inventory totals are 10.6 percent lower than a year ago when the number of unsold homes was at a record.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $178,400 in July, which is 15.1 percent lower than July 2008.  Distressed properties continue to weigh down the median price because they typically sell for 15 to 20 percent less than traditional homes.

Single-family home sales increased 6.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.61 million in July from a pace of 4.33 million in June, and are 5.0 percent higher than the 4.39 million-unit level in July 2008.  The median existing single-family home price was $178,300 in July, which is 14.6 percent below a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales jumped 12.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 630,000 units in July from 560,000 in June, and are 5.9 percent above the 595,000-unit level a year ago.  The median existing condo price4 was $178,800 in July, down 18.9 percent from July 2008.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast surged 13.4 percent to an annual pace of 930,000 in July, and are 3.3 percent higher than July 2008.  Existing-home sales in the Midwest jumped 10.9 percent in July to a level of 1.22 million and are 8.0 percent above a year ago. 

In the South, existing-home sales rose 7.1 percent to an annual pace of 1.95 million in July and are 5.4 percent higher than July 2008.  Existing-home sales in the West slipped 1.7 percent to an annual rate of 1.13 million in July, but are 1.8 percent above a year ago. 

Harlan Green © 2009