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Economy in Brief

U.S. Existing Home Sales Drop More Steeply in April
by Carol Stone, CBE  May 21, 2020

• Existing home sales lowest since July 2011.

• Sales fall in every region.

• Prices were still rising in 3 regions.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that sales of existing homes dropped 17.8% (-17.2% y/y) during April to 4.330 million (AR) from 5.270 million in March, which was unrevised. April's sales were the lowest since July 2011. The Action Economics Forecast Survey expected April sales of 4.280 million. Existing home sales data are compiled when sales close; the total includes single-family houses plus condos and co-ops.

Home prices were still rising in April, as the median increased 2.2% (+7.4% y/y) to $286,800 after a 3.8% advance in March. The mean sales price was up 1.7% last month (5.4% y/y) to $321,500. The price data are not seasonally adjusted. Prices rose at least some in the Northeast, the Midwest and the South; they edged down 0.7% in the West.

All four regions of the country suffered huge sales drops. The West had the largest decline, 25.0% (27.0% y/y) to 810,000, the lowest ever for this region. These data all begin in January 1999. Sales in the South fell 17.9% (-16.8% y/y) in April to 1.880 million after -9.1% in March. In the Northeast, they fell 16.9% (-18.2% y/y) to 540,000; the last monthly increase in the Northeast was in December 2019. The Midwest had, relatively speaking, the smallest decrease among the regions in April, 12.0% (-8.3% y/y) to 1.100 million; that followed -3.1% in March and was the lowest since March 2014.

Sales of existing single-family homes, which date back to 1968, declined 16.9% (-15.5% y/y) to 3.940 million units, the lowest since December 2011. Sales of condos and co-ops shrank by 26.4% (-3.6% y/y) to 390,000 units, the smallest since the same amount in July 2010 and the lowest since March 2009.

The number of homes on the market declined 19.7% y/y; in April they actually decreased 1.3%, counter to usual seasonal patterns which generally see April with the largest increase in the year. The months' supply of homes on the market rose to 4.1 from 3.4 in March and was actually a bit lower than April 2019, which was 4.2 months. These inventory figures date back to 1999.

The data on existing home sales, prices and affordability are compiled by the National Association of Realtors. Total sales and price data and regional sales can be found in Haver's USECON database. Regional price and affordability data and national inventory data are available in the REALTOR database. The expectations figure is from the Action Economics Forecast Survey, reported in the AS1REPNA database.

Existing Home Sales (SAAR, 000s) Apr Mar Feb Apr Y/Y % 2019 2018 2017
Total Sales 4,330 5,270 5,760 -17.2 5,330 5,341 5,531
   Northeast 540 650 700 -18.2 687 689 735
   Midwest 1,100 1,250 1,290 -8.3 1,248 1,265 1,301
   South 1,880 2,290 2,520 -16.8 2,281 2,246 2,270
   West 810 1,080 1,250 -27.0 1,115 1,141 1,225
Single-Family Sales 3,940 4,740 5,160 -15.5 4,754 4,742 4,907
Median Price Total ($, NSA) 286,800 280,700 270,400 7.4 269,783 257,267 245,950
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