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Economy in Brief

U.S. Existing Home Sales Surge Again As Prices Rise
by Tom Moeller January 20, 2012

The National Association of Realtors reported that December sales of existing homes jumped 5.0% to 4.610M (AR, 3.6% y/y) following a downwardly revised 3.3% November gain. The latest was the highest since last January. For all of 2011, sales rose 2.5% to 4.293M and recouped most of a 3.4% decline in 2010. Sales of existing single-family homes alone rose 4.6% last month to 4.110M, up 4.3% y/y. (These data have a longer history than the total sales series). Sales of condos and co-ops rose 8.7% m/m to .500M (-2.0% y/y).

The months' supply of homes on the market fell sharply to 6.2, the lowest since April, 2006. The months' supply of single-family homes on the market fell to 6.1 and for condos & coops it was a greatly-lessened 7.1 months. The total number of homes on the market fell by nearly one-quarter y/y. Inventories of single-family homes fell 19.7% y/y but multi-family home inventories were off by one-third.

The median price of existing homes rose 2.3% m/m in December to $164,500 (-2.5% y/y). However, November's level was revised down to show no-change. In the Northeast, the median sales price of $231,300 was down 2.7% y/y. In the West, the median price of $205,200 increased 0.3% y/y. In the South, the price of $146,900 was down 1.1% y/y and in the Midwest the price of $129,100 fell 7.9% y/y.

Reported earlier this month, the composite index of home price affordability rose 7.6% y/y in November as mortgage payments as a percent of income were 12.9%, versus the high near 25% in 2006. The average monthly mortgage rate remained at 4.33%.

The data on existing home sales, prices and affordability can be found in Haver's USECON database. The regional price, affordability and inventory data are available in the REALTOR database. The expectations figure is in the AS1REPNA database.

2011's Reluctant Recovery: Breaking through in 2012? from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta is available here.

Existing Home Sales (Thous, SAAR) Dec Nov Oct Y/Y% 2011 2010 2009
Total 4,610 4,390 4,250 3.6 4,293 4,187 4,335
  Northeast 620 560 510 3.3 543 565 583
  Midwest 1,040 960 920 9.5 924 912 983
  South 1,760 1,710 1,700 3.5 1,688 1,628 1,633
  West 1,190 1,160 1,120 -0.8 1,138 1,083 1,138
Single-Family Sales 4,110 3,930 3,780 4.3 3,808 3,708 3,867
Median Price, Total, ($, NSA) 164,500 160,800 160,800 -2.5 164,467 172,442 172,783
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