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Seven straight months of slowing sales has reduced existing home transactions by nearly 20 percent from the same point in 2021. The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) said on Wednesday that August sales of preowned single-family houses, townhouses, condominiums, and cooperative apartments were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.80 million units. This is a decline of 0.4 percent from July and is 19.9 percent lower than the August 2021 pace. There is a bright spot; the size of the August decline, Over the previous three months, existing home sales had fallen an average of 4.7 percent. Sales were also slightly higher than anticipated. Analysts polled by both Econoday and Trading Economics had forecasted sales at 4.7 million Single-family home sales were down 0.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.28 million, 19.2 percent below the level a year earlier. Existing condominium and co-op sales were up 4.0 percent compared to July, but 24.6 percent lower year-over-year. [existinghomesdata] “The housing sector is the most sensitive to and experiences the most immediate impacts from the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policy changes,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “The softness in home sales reflects this year’s escalating mortgage rates. Nonetheless, homeowners are doing well with near nonexistent distressed property sales and home prices still higher than a year ago.” August marked the 126th month of year-over-year price increases, the longest-running streak on record. Price gains, however, are clearly moderating from the record high median of $413,800 posted in June. The median price for existing units of all types rose 7.7 percent year-over-year in August, to $389,500. During the first few months of this year, rate gains exceeded 15 percent. The median existing single-family home price was $396,300, up an annual 7.6 percent. The median existing condo price was $333,700, a markup of 7.8 percent.
Mortgage application activity increased for the first time in six weeks during the period ended September 16 although the prior week had been shortened by a major holiday weekend. The Mortgage Bankers Association said its Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, increased 3.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 14 percent compared with the previous week. The Refinance Index jumped 10 percent, its largest single week gain since late January, but was still 83 percent lower than the same week one year ago. Refinance applications represented 32.5 percent of total activity, up from 30.2 percent the previous week. [refiappschart] The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index was up slightly for the second week, rising 1 percent. The unadjusted version was 11 percent higher on a weekly basis but was down 30 percent on an annual basis. [purchaseappschart] Joel Kan, MBA’s Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting commented, “Treasury yields continued to climb higher last week in anticipation of the Federal Reserve’s September meeting, where it is expected that they will announce – in their efforts to slow inflation – another sizable short-term rate hike. “Mortgage rates followed suit last week, increasing across the board, with the 30-year fixed rate jumping 24 basis points to 6.25 percent – the highest since October 2008. As with the swings in rates and other uncertainties around the housing market and broader economy, mortgage applications increased for the first time in six weeks but remained well below last year’s levels, with purchase applications 30 percent lower and refinance activity down 83 percent. The weekly gain in applications, despite higher rates, underscores the overall volatility right now as well as Labor Day-adjusted results the prior week.”
Residential construction numbers were mixed in August. Home builders apparently worked on drawing down their backlogs of permits rather than seeking new ones while construction starts soared. The U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development report that permits were issued at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.517 million compared to a rate of 1.685 million in July, a decline of 10.0 percent month-over-month and 14.4 percent below the August 2021 rate. Single family permits decreased from 932,000 to 899,000, a 3.5 percent decline, and multifamily permits dropped 18.5 percent to 571,000. Single family permitting is now 15.3 percent off the prior August pace and multifamily permitting is down 14.5 percent. There were 136,400 permits issued during the month, up from 134,400 in July. Single family permits totaled 80,900 compared to 75,600 the previous month. [housingpermitschart] So far this year (YTD) there have been 1.176 construction permits issued, nearly identical to the number at the same point in 2021. Single family permits are down 6.6 percent to 726,700 while permits for units in buildings with five or more have increased by 14.4 percent to 413,900. Housing starts jumped 12.2 percent in August from a downwardly adjusted 1.404 million to 1.575 million in August. This is nearly identical to the rate of starts in August 2021. Single-family starts rose 3.4 percent to 935,000 but remain 14.6 percent below the 1.095 million rate of starts a year earlier. Multifamily starts increased by 28.6 percent and 31.0 percent from the two earlier time periods. [housingchart]