Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lawler: Existing Home Sales Dipped in April; Sales in South Seem Low

by Bill McBride on 5/21/2015 01:33:00 PM

From housing economist Tom Lawler:

The National Association of Realtors reported that US existing home sales ran at an estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in April, down 3.3% from March’s upwardly-revised pace and up 6.1% from last March’s seasonally adjusted pace. The NAR’s estimate was below both my projection based on regional tracking and the “consensus” forecast. Relative to March, April sales (seasonally adjusted) were up 1.7% in the Midwest, but down 1.7% in the West, down 3.3% in the Northeast, and down a sizable 6.8% in the South.

In terms of my tracking, my “miss” was almost entirely in the South. According to the NAR’s estimates, existing home sales in the South last month (not seasonally adjusted) were up just 2.9% from last April, which seems way too low based on realtor/MLS reports from the South. For example, MLS-based reports show that home sales registered double-digit YOY gains in the broad Mid-Atlantic region (mainly most of Maryland, DC and Northern Virginia), Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and much of Kentucky and Arkansas (my coverage in those states is limited). MLS-based reports in most other states suggest YOY sales gains in the 5% (e.g., Texas) to 9% (e.g., North Carolina) range. To be sure, some areas in the region saw YOY declines in sales (e.g., Oklahoma at -2%, and Jackson, Mississippi at -13%). But for the region as a whole, local realtor/MLS reports would have suggested YOY sales growth for the region as a whole well above 2.9%.

Often when my projection for the NAR sales number is off, it turns out that realtor/MLS reports released subsequent to my projection (e.g., today) show significantly different sales numbers than I had had been assuming. That was not the case this month. Based on local realtor/MLS reports released through today (which included quite a few, including Florida and Texas), the NAR’s estimate for existing home sales in the South for April look way too low. The NAR’s estimates for the other regions, in contrast, look reasonable.

The NAR also reported that its preliminary estimate of the number of existing homes for sale at the end of April was 2.21 million, down 10.0% from March’s upwardly-revised (to 2.10 million from 2.00 million) level, and down 0.9% from last April’s level. This inventory number was just slightly below my projection.

Finally, the NAR estimated that the median existing SF home sales price in April, $221,200, up 10.0% from last April, and well above my projection based on regional tracking. The YOY % change in the median existing SF home sales price for March was revised downward to 7.9% from 8.7%.