Existing Home Sales Fall As Affordability Concerns Rise

Real Estate

A new housing market report is a wake-up call that what goes up must come down. Existing home sales dipped in February, continuing a seesawing pattern of gains and declines over the last few months, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Each of the four major U.S. regions saw sales fall on a month-over-month basis in February. Sales activity year-over-year was also down overall, though the South experienced an increase while the remaining three regions reported drops in transactions.

Total existing home sales, completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, sank 7.2% from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.02 million in February. Year-over-year, sales decreased 2.4% (6.17 million in February 2021).

“Housing affordability continues to be a major challenge, as buyers are getting a double whammy: rising mortgage rates and sustained price increases,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Some who had previously qualified at a 3% mortgage rate are no longer able to buy at the 4% rate.”

He added, “Monthly payments have risen by 28% from one year ago – which interestingly is not a part of the consumer price index – and the market remains swift with multiple offers still being recorded on most properties.”

Total housing inventory at the end of February totaled 870,000 units, up 2.4% from January and down 15.5% from one year ago (1.03 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 1.7-month supply at the current sales pace, up from the record-low supply in January of 1.6 months and down from 2.0 months in February 2021.

Yun notes that rising rates and escalating prices have prevented many consumers from making a purchase.

“The sharp jump in mortgage rates and increasing inflation is taking a heavy toll on consumers’ savings,” he said. “However, I expect the pace of price appreciation to slow as demand cools and as supply improves somewhat due to more home construction.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in February was $357,300, up 15.0% from February 2021 ($310,600), as prices grew in each region. This marks 120 consecutive months of year-over-year increases, the longest-running streak on record.

First-time buyers were responsible for 29% of sales in February, up from 27% in January and down from 31% in February 2021.

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