Monday, March 21, 2011

February Existing Home Sales: 4.88 million SAAR, 8.6 months of supply

by Bill McBride on 3/21/2011 10:00:00 AM

The NAR reports: February Existing-Home Sales Decline

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, dropped 9.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million in February from an upwardly revised 5.40 million in January, and are 2.8 percent below the 5.02 million pace in February 2010.
...
Total housing inventory at the end of February rose 3.5 percent to 3.49 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.6-month supply at the current sales pace, up from a 7.5-month supply in January.
Existing Home Sales Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows existing home sales, on a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) basis since 1993.

Sales in February 2011 (4.88 million SAAR) were 9.6% lower than last month, and were 2.8% lower than February 2010.

Existing Home InventoryThe second graph shows nationwide inventory for existing homes.

According to the NAR, inventory increased to 3.49 million in February from 3.37 million in January.

Inventory is not seasonally adjusted and there is a clear seasonal pattern with inventory peaking in the summer and declining in the fall and winter. Inventory will probably increase significantly over the next several months.

Existing Home Sales Months of SupplyThe last graph shows the 'months of supply' metric.

Months of supply increased to 8.6 months in February up from 7.5 months in January. The months of supply will probably increase over the next few months as inventory increases. This is higher than normal.

Special Note: Back in January, I noted that it appeared the NAR had overestimated sales by 5% or so in 2007, and that the errors had increased since then (perhaps 10% or 15% or more in 2009 and 2010). I reported in January that the NAR was working on benchmarking existing home sales for earlier years with other industry data, and I expected "this effort will lead to significant downward revisions to previously reported sales". The numbers reported today were estimated using the old method and will probably be revised down significantly, but they are still useful on a month-to-month basis.

These sales numbers were below the consensus of 5.15 million SAAR, and are slightly below what I expected (Lawler's forecast was 5 million). I'll have more soon.