After months of a strong and stable recovery, U.S. home sales have slowed going into Autumn and prices have dipped. Even so, inventory remains tight in many markets, according to a number of industry sources.
Though prices and conditions will vary by market, Zip Realty's Housing Trends Report shows home prices are moderating nationwide.
"The fall's cooler temps are being matched by a cooling off in the housing market's red-hot trends," said Lanny Baker, CEO and President of ZipRealty. "For the month ended Sept. 15, median homes sale prices in the 24 metropolitan areas surveyed were up 14% year-over-year, compared to a nearly 16% gain one month earlier. Median sale prices were higher than a year ago in all cities studied, but the year to year median price increases shrank in 19 out of 24 markets. The median sale price of about $272,000 in mid-September was also about twp percent lower than in mid-August 2013."
The report said sold-to-list price ratios, new listings volume, pending sales volume, and days on market data for mid-September also all suggested further moderation.
Redfin, another online real estate brokerage, says its data suggests sellers are losing control of the market, with buyers once again gaining the upper hand. However, its survey of agents found many believe that limited inventory and bidding wars remain the biggest challenges for buyers.
Redfin says a slowing of sales and price rises heading into fall is not surprising. In September, it said home sales, prices, and inventory all dropped from August.
However, in September prices had their third consecutive month-over-month drop, falling 2.2%. Home sales dropped 18.8% from August, and inventory fell 3.4%. Year over year, the housing market is still showing strength, the company said, with prices up 15.9% and home sales up 8.1%.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) also noted a cooling in the market with a report that pending home sales – contracts signed but not yet closed – dipped 1.6% in August. NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said much of the buying occurred earlier in the summer.
Lower sales expected
“Sharply rising mortgage interest rates in the spring motived buyers to make purchase decisions, culminating in a six-and-a-half-year peak for sales that were finalized in August,” he said. “Moving forward, we expect lower levels of existing-home sales, but tight inventory in many markets will continue to push up home prices in the months ahead.”
And there is little to suggest the tight inventory conditions will change anytime soon. CoreLogic, a property data firm, reports the inventory of foreclosed homes is down 33% from a year ago, meaning there are fewer distressed properties competing with homeowners trying to sell.
According to the report there were 48,000 completed foreclosures in the U.S. in August of 2013, down from 72,000 in August 2012. That's a year-over-year decrease of 34%. On a month-over-month basis, completed foreclosures increased 1.3 percent, from 47,000 in July 2013.
Putting it in context
However, the numbers should be viewed in context. CoreLogic notes that the 48,000 completed foreclosures are sharply lower that at the height of the housing crisis, but they are still sharply higher than before the crisis began. Between 2000 and 2006 completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month. Still, for the health of the housing market, the numbers are running in the right direction.
“The foreclosure inventory continues to improve, as exhibited by these recent numbers,” said Dr. Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “A surge in completed foreclosures and a rise in the foreclosure inventory is unlikely given continued house price improvements and shortages of supply in many markets.”
What it means is the housing market may maintain some balance heading into the end of the year, which should turn out to be good for everyone.