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Existing home sales rise in November

·Editor
·4-min read
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Home sales in the U.S. increased in the penultimate month of the year.

Existing home sales rose 1.9% to a seasonally adjusted 6.46 million million units in November from a month earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The number of sales was down 2% from the same month a year ago when there was a surge of buying fueled by pent-up demand from the COVID-19 pandemic. The results were lower than analyst expectations of a 3% month-over-month increase to 6.53 million units, according to Bloomberg consensus estimates.

“Home buying continues to be strong in November,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR, said during a press conference releasing the new data, attributing the activity “to continued improvement in the job market (each month there’s more job creation)” and the stock market even though there’s volatility. Rising rents is also a factor, he added.

Year-to-date existing homes sales was up 10% from the same period last year, indicating that 2021 will be another strong year for the housing market.

The increase was not surprising given recent pending home sales activity. “The 7.5% jump in October pending home sales should result in a sturdy gain for November existing home sales (6.55 million vs. 6.34 million) given that the former typically leads the latter by a month or two,” said Deutsche Bank in a research note ahead of the results.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in November was $353,900, up 13.9% from November 2020 ($310,800), as prices increased in each region, with the highest pace of appreciation in the South region.

The rising prices are attributed to more expensive homes being sold across the U.S. Sales of homes priced between $500,000 and $750,000 were up 31%, while homes between $750,000 to $1 million were up 37% and homes above 1 million was up 50%, according to NAR.

The share of first-time homebuyers fell to 26% in November, down from 32% a year ago. "First-time homebuyers are really struggling to get into the market," said Yun, adding that most of the sales activity stemmed from existing homeowners who are moving.

Total housing inventory at the end of November was 1.11 million units, down 9.8% from October and down 13.3% from one year ago (1.28 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 2.1-month supply at the current sales pace, a decline from both the prior month and from one year ago. That's compared to a 2.3-months supply the same time a year ago.

"To see how out-of-whack supply and demand are, compare November’s numbers to two years earlier, before the pandemic. People bought 404,000 homes in November 2019, and 1.64 million homes were on the market. This November, 503,000 homes were sold, with just 1.11 million homes on the market. This, in a nutshell, is why the median price climbed 30.4% in two years,” said Holden Lewis, home and mortgage expert at NerdWallet, in a statement.

The market is still very tight when it comes to homes available for sale, Yun said. While more new listings are coming on the market, homes "are being snatched up quickly," he added.

Homes typically remained on the market for 18 days in November, equal to October and down from 21 days in November 2020. Eighty-three percent of homes sold in November 2021 were on the market for less than a month.

“The prospect of higher interest rates in 2022 is accelerating the decision for buyers in an otherwise slower season. However, the low number of homes for sale remains the principal challenge, stumping both existing homeowners looking for their next house and first-time buyers seeking a place to call their own,” said George Ratiu, manager of economic research for Realtor.com, in a statement. “There are fewer than half as many homes on the market now compared with two years ago. As we head into December’s holidays, and Americans get together for family celebrations, many sellers are likely to postpone listing their property until next year, further tightening available supply."

Amanda Fung is an editor at Yahoo Finance.

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