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US existing home sales edge up in September

[WASHINGTON] Sales of existing US homes rose in September compared with August, but remained relatively tepid due to limited housing supply and high prices, the National Association of Realtors said Friday.

Last month sales rose 0.7 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.39 million houses, a surprise since analysts expected a drop to 5.29 million.

But September sales were below those in the year-ago period, the first decline on an annual basis since July 2016, NAR added.

"Home sales in recent months remain at their lowest level of the year and are unable to break through, despite considerable buyer interest in most parts of the country," said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

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"Realtors this fall continue to say the primary impediments stifling sales growth are the same as they have been all year: not enough listings - especially at the lower end of the market - and fast-rising prices that are straining the budgets of prospective buyers."

Mr Yun added sales were impeded somewhat by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which impacted transactions in Texas and Florida. Both of those states are located in the South, which was the only region in the US to experience a decline in September compared with August.

Some analysts expressed surprise that the impact from the storms was not greater.

That sales grew at all "was a bit of shock since Florida took a licking," said economist Joel Naroff.

"Apparently, demand in Houston started ticking again and sales in the South were off only modestly."

"That it is hard to sell properties you cannot get to should have surprised no one," Mr Naroff added.

"Today we found out that once the waters recede, sales proceed."

The median price for a home was US$245,100, up 4.2 per cent from the year-ago level and the 67th straight month of year-over-year gains.

Overall housing stocks for sale rose 1.6 per cent to 1.9 million existing homes at the end of September - but that is still 6.4 per cent below the level a year ago.

AFP

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