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Thursday, April 23, 2009

More on Existing Home Sales

by Calculated Risk on 4/23/2009 11:12:00 AM

To add to the previous post, here is another way to look at existing homes sales - monthly, Not Seasonally Adjusted (NSA):

Existing Home Sales NSA This graph shows NSA monthly existing home sales for 2005 through 2009. Sales (NSA) were lower in March 2009 than in March 2008.

Again - a significant percentage of recent sales were foreclosure resales, and although these are real sales, I think existing home sales could fall even further when foreclosure resales start to decline sometime in the future.

Existing Home Inventory The second graph shows inventory by month starting in 2004.

Inventory levels were flat during the bubble, but started increasing at the end of 2005.

Inventory levels increased sharply in 2006 and 2007, but have been below the year ago level for the last eight months. Inventory in March 2009 was below the levels in March 2007 and 2008 (this is the 2nd consecutive month with inventory levels below 2 years ago).

It is important to watch inventory levels very carefully. If you look at the 2005 inventory data, instead of staying flat for most of the year (like the previous bubble years), inventory continued to increase all year. That was one of the key signs that led me to call the top in the housing market!

Note: there is probably a substantial shadow inventory – homeowners wanting to sell, but waiting for a better market - so existing home inventory levels will probably stay elevated for some time. There is also the possibility of some REOs being held off the market.

The third graph shows the year-over-year change in existing home inventory.

YoY Change Existing Home InventoryThis shows the YoY change has turned negative.

If the trend of declining year-over-year inventory levels continues in 2009 that will be a positive for the housing market. Prices will probably continue to fall until the months of supply reaches more normal levels (in the 6 to 8 month range), and that will take some time.

I'll have more on Existing Home sales tomorrow after New Home sales are released.