Existing-Home Sales Hit 2014 High As Interest Rates Remain Low

Sales of existing U.S. homes rose to an annual high in July, according to the National Association of Realtors, helped by mortgage rates that have fallen to their lowest level in over a year.

The NAR reported that total existing-home sales – including sales of single-family homes, townhomes, condos and co-ops – grew 2.4 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.15 million, up from 5.03 million in June and the fourth straight month of sales increases. However, compared with July 2013, sales are still down 4.3 percent.

Home prices have gained since last year though. The median existing-home price increased to $222,900, a 4.9 percent jump from July 2013. And inventory is up, rising 3.5 percent by the end of July to 2.37 million properties, representing a 5.5-month supply at the current sales pace

“The number of houses for sale is higher than a year ago and tamer price increases are giving prospective buyers less hesitation about entering the market,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun in a statement. “More people are buying homes compared to earlier in the year and this trend should continue with interest rates remaining low and apartment rents on the rise.”

Interest rates on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dipped to an average of 4.13 percent in July, according to Freddie Mac, down from 4.16 percent in June. Rates have not been that low in over a year, since June 2013.

But rates will not remain so low forever, Yun cautioned. “Although interest rates have fallen in recent months, median family incomes are still lagging behind price gains, and mortgage rates will inevitably rise with the upcoming changes in monetary policy,” he said.

Another positive sign from the NAR housing report: the number of distressed sales fell to just 9 percent of all July sales, the first time they have dropped into single-digits since the NAR began tracking them almost six years ago. “To put it in perspective, distressed sales represented an average of 36 percent of sales during all of 2009,” Yun said. “Fast-forward to today and rising home values are helping owners recover equity and strong job creation are assisting those who may have fallen behind on their mortgage due to unemployment or underemployment.”




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