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Monday, January 26, 2009

Existing Home Sales Increase in December

by Calculated Risk on 1/26/2009 10:00:00 AM

From the NAR: Existing-Home Sales Show Strong Gain In December

ExistingExisting-home sales rose unexpectedly while inventory declined, led by a surge of sales in the West, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – jumped 6.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 4.74 million units in December from a downwardly revised pace of 4.45 million units in November, but are 3.5 percent below the 4.91 million-unit pace in December 2007.

For all of 2008 there were 4,912,000 existing-home sales, which was 13.1 percent below the 5,652,000 transactions recorded in 2007. This is the lowest volume since 1997 when there were 4,371,000 sales.
Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 11.7 percent to 3.68 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.3-month supply2 at the current sales pace, down from a 11.2-month supply in November.
Existing Home Sales Click on graph for larger image in new window.

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

Sales in December 2008 (4.74 million SAAR) were 6.5% higher than last month, and were 3.5% lower than December 2007 (4.91 million SAAR).

Not exactly a "strong gain" looking at a long term graph!

It's important to note that a large percentage of these sales were foreclosure resales (banks selling foreclosed properties). NAR economist Yun suggested said a couple of months ago that "distressed sales are currently 35 to 40 percent of transactions". Distressed sales include foreclosure resales and short sales. Although these are real transactions, this means activity (ex-foreclosures) is running around 3 million units SAAR.

Existing Home Inventory The second graph shows nationwide inventory for existing homes. According to NAR, inventory decreased to 3.67 million in December, from an all time record of 4.57 million homes for sale in July 2008. Usually inventory peaks in mid-Summer, and then declines slowly through November - and then declines sharply in December as families take their homes of the market for the holidays. This decrease was especially large, but this is the usual pattern.

Most REOs (bank owned properties) are included in the inventory because they are listed - but not all. Some houses in the foreclosure process are listed as short sales - so those would be counted too.

Existing Home Sales Months of SupplyThe third graph shows the 'months of supply' metric for the last six years.

UPDATE: Important note: The NAR uses Seasonally Adjusted sales, and Not Seasonally adjusted inventory to calculate the Months of Supply. Since inventory always declines in December, the Months of Supply always declines too.

Months of supply decreased to 9.3 months.

I still expect sales to fall further in 2009. It will be interesting in 2009 to see if existing home inventory has peaked for this cycle. I'll have more on existing home sales ...