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Monday, September 19, 2011

Lawler on August Existing Home Sales: Regional Reports Point to Above-Consensus Gain

by Calculated Risk on 9/19/2011 05:30:00 PM

From economist Tom Lawler:

Based on a fair amount of data from local realtor associations/boards/MLS across the country, I project that existing home sales as estimated by the National Association of Realtors will come in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 4.92 million for August, up 5.4% from July and up 15.8% from last August. Unadjusted sales should show a higher YOY gain – over 18% -- reflecting the higher business day count/seasonal factor this August vs. last August.

This estimate is significantly above the “consensus” forecast of 4.75 million SAAR, but it is what the local data available suggest. A sizable number of markets showed YOY gains of 20% or more (in some cases by a lot), including (but not limited to) a fair number of markets in the middle of the country. Of course, sales in many of those markets were extremely weak last August, which was pretty soon following the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit.

On the inventory side, there is absolutely no doubt that the inventory of homes for sale fell from the end of July to the end of August, and was down significantly from a year ago nationwide. E.g., the “Department of Numbers” website (formerly and more appropriately named “HousingTracker”) shows that active residential listings in the 54 metro markets it covers declined by 2.6% (monthly average of weekly data) from July to August, and were down 14.1% from last August. While these 54 metro areas don’t generally represent the US as a whole, other markets not in this report that I follow on average had similar, though somewhat smaller, declines. NAR inventory figures do not always follow what MLS listing reports might suggest, however. Moreover, NAR inventory numbers this year have not shown the same YOY % declines as various aggregated listings reports.

A “best guess” would be that the NAR’s inventory number for August will be down 2.5% from July, and down 13.5% from last August. If that turns out to be the case, then August’s “months’ supply” number (unadjusted inventory divided by seasonally adjusted monthly sales!) would come in at 8.7 months, down from 9.4 months in July, and 11.7 months last August.

CR Note: The NAR is scheduled to report August existing home sales on Wednesday at 10 AM ET.