by Bill McBride on 7/19/2012 11:47:00 AM
Thursday, July 19, 2012
I can't emphasize enough - what matters the most in the NAR's existing home sales report is inventory; what matters the most in the new home sales report next week is sales. It is active inventory that impacts prices (although the "shadow" inventory will keep prices from rising). Those looking at the number of existing home sales for a recovery in housing are looking at the wrong number. For existing home sales, look at inventory first.
Although there are always questions about the NAR data, the report this morning was another positive housing report.
The NAR reported inventory decreased to 2.39 million units in June, down 3.2% from the downwardly revised 2.47 million in May (revised down from 2.49 million). This is down 24.4% from June 2011, and down 10.8% from the inventory level in June 2005 (mid-2005 was when inventory started increasing sharply). This is the lowest level for a June since 2002.
Clearly inventory will be below the comparable month in 2005 for the rest of the year and will probably track close to the level in 2004. It is also possible that inventory has peaked for 2012 (or is at least very close to the peak).
Important: The NAR reports active listings, and although there is some variability across the country in what is considered active, most "contingent short sales" are not included. "Contingent short sales" are strange listings since the listings were frequently NEVER on the market (they were listed as contingent), and they hang around for a long time - they are probably more closely related to shadow inventory than active inventory. However when we compare inventory to 2005, we need to remember there were no "short sale contingent" listings in 2005. In the areas I track, the number of "short sale contingent" listings is also down sharply year-over-year.
The following graph shows inventory by month since 2004. In 2005 (dark blue columns), inventory kept rising all year - and that was a clear sign that the housing bubble was ending.
Click on graph for larger image.
This year (dark red for 2012) inventory is at the lowest level for the month of June since 2002, and inventory is below the level in June 2005 (not counting contingent sales). However inventory is still elevated using months-of-supply, but I expect months-of-supply to be below 6 later this year.
The following graph shows existing home sales Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA).
Sales NSA (red column) are above the sales for the 2009 and 2011 (2010 was higher because of the tax credit). Sales are well below the bubble years of 2005 and 2006.
On distressed sales from the NAR:
Distressed homes - foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts - accounted for 25 percent of June sales (13 percent were foreclosures and 12 percent were short sales), unchanged from May but down from 30 percent in June 2011.However other data suggest distressed sales were down in June, and that is a positive sign for the housing market.
• Existing Home Sales in June: 4.37 million SAAR, 6.6 months of supply
• Existing Home Sales graphs