PhotoLarge declines in the Northeast and Midwest outweighed sales increases in the South and West, pushing sales of previously-owned homes lower in July.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports sales last month dropped 1.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.44 million. At the same time, the June performance was revised to show a sales decline to 5.51 million instead of the 5.52 million initially reported.

Still the July sales pace for existing homes -- completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops -- is 2.1% above a year ago, but the lowest of 2017.

“Buyer interest in most of the country has held up strongly this summer and homes are selling fast, but the negative effect of not enough inventory to choose from and its pressure on overall affordability put the brakes on what should’ve been a higher sales pace,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “Contract activity has mostly trended downward since February and ultimately put a large dent on closings last month.”

Inventory and pricing

In fact, total housing inventory at the end of last month was down 1.0% to 1.92 million existing homes available for sale, and is now 9.0% lower than a year ago. That puts unsold inventory is at a 4.2-month supply at the current sales pace, compared with 4.8 months a year ago.

Unsold inventory has now fallen year-over-year for 26 consecutive months.

The median existing-home price for all housing types in July was $258,300, up 6.2% from July 2016, marking the 65th straight month of year-over-year gains. The median is the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less.

“Home prices are still rising above incomes and way too fast in many markets,” said Yun. “Realtors continue to say prospective buyers are frustrated by how quickly prices are rising for the minimal selection of homes that fit buyers’ budget and wish list.”

Sales and pricing by region

  • Sales in the Northeast plunged 14.5% in July to an annual rate of 650,000, and are now 1.5% below a year ago. The median price in was $290,000, up 4.1% from a year earlier.
  • In the Midwest, existing-home sales were down 5.3% to an annual rate of 1.25 million, and are now down 1.6% from July 2016. The median price was up 5.9% on a year-over-year basis to $205,400.
  • The South saw a sales gain of 2.2% to an annual rate of 2.28 million in July; sales are now 3.6 percent higher than they were a year ago. The median price in the South was $227,700 -- up 6.7% from a year ago.
  • Existing-home sales in the West jumped to an annual rate of 1.26 million up 5.0% on both a month-over-month and annual basis. The median price in the West rose 7.6% from July 2016 to $373,000. 

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