Sales of existing U.S. homes rose for the third month in a row in June, accompanied by increases in both price and inventory, according to the National Association of Realtors, as low interest rates continued to boost affordability.
Total existing-home sales grew 2.6 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million, up from 4.91 million in May, but the new pace is down 2.3 percent from the previous year.
Inventory climbed 2.2 percent in June to a total of 2.30 million existing homes for sale, a 5.5-month supply at the current sales pace. That’s a 6.5 percent increase from June 2013.
Prices made significant upward progress last month, with the median existing-home price rising 4.3 percent to $223,300 from the year before. Prices have grown on a yearly basis for 28 straight months now.
“Inventories are at their highest level in over a year and price gains have slowed to much more welcoming levels in many parts of the country. This bodes well for rising home sales in the upcoming months as consumers are provided with more choices,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “On the contrary, new home construction needs to rise by at least 50 percent for a complete return to a balanced market because supply shortages – particularly in the West – are still putting upward pressure on prices.”
Mortgage interest rates remained at historically low levels in June, with the average rate on a 30-year conventional fixed rate mortgage falling to 4.16 percent, excluding points, down from an average of 4.19 percent in May.
The percentage of distressed property sales continued to tumble, with foreclosures and short sales making up just 11 percent of all June sales, down from 15 percent a year earlier.
The one negative to last month’s report is the lack of first-time buyers in the market. In June, first-timers made up 28 percent of all buyers, barely changed from May’s 27 percent, a level is that is below the historical averages. “Access to affordable credit continues to hamper young, prospective first-time buyers,” said NAR President Steve Brown. “NAR recommends that FHA reduce high annual mortgage insurance premiums for all qualified homebuyers and eliminate the insurance requirement for the life of the loan.”