After falling in August, sales of existing U.S. homes rose to their highest level of 2014 in September, according to the National Association of Realtors.
“Low interest rates and price gains holding steady led to September’s healthy increase, even with investor activity remaining on par with last month’s marked decline,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Traditional buyers are entering a less competitive market with fewer investors searching for available homes, but may also face a slight decline in choices due to the fact that inventory generally falls heading into the winter.”
Total existing-home sales rose 2.4 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.17 million homes, up from 5.05 million in August, but they are still down 1.7 percent from a year earlier. Home prices fell markedly on a monthly basis, dropping to a national median of $209,700, down from $218,400 in August. The price was up 5.6 percent however compared to September 2013, marking 31 straight months of year-over-year price gains.
Foreclosures and short sales made up a slightly higher share of sales in September with 10 percent, up from 8 percent in August, but down from 14 percent a year ago. The falling percentage of distressed properties for sale has helped prices regain ground in the past year.
At the same time long-term mortgage interest rates climbed to an average of 4.16 percent on a 30-year fixed-rate conventional mortgage, up from August’s average of 4.12 percent. Historically speaking, rates are still incredibly low. “Economic instability overseas is leading to volatility in the stock market and is causing investors to seek safer bets, which will likely keep interest rates in upcoming weeks hovering near or below where they are now,” said Yun. “This is welcoming news for consumers looking to buy, although they could temporarily become more cautious by less certain economic conditions.”