The real estate market appears to be on the upswing even amid COVID-19.
Existing-home sales continued on a strong, upward trajectory in July, marking two consecutive months of significant sales gains, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Each of the four major regions attained double-digit, month-over-month increases, while the Northeast was the only region to show a year-over-year decline.
Total existing-home sales, 1 completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops, jumped 24.7% from June to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.86 million in July. The previous record monthly increase in sales was 20.7% in June of this year. Sales as a whole rose year-over-year, up 8.7% from a year ago (5.39 million in July 2019), according to a NAR press release.
“The housing market is well past the recovery phase and is now booming with higher home sales compared to the pre-pandemic days,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist in the news release. “With the sizable shift in remote work, current homeowners are looking for larger homes and this will lead to a secondary level of demand even into 2021.”
The median existing-home price2 for all housing types in July was $304,100, up 8.5% from July 2019 ($280,400), as prices rose in every region. July’s national price increase marks 101 straight months of year-over-year gains. For the first time, national median home prices breached the $300,000 level.
Total housing inventory3 at the end of July totaled 1.50 million units, down from both 2.6% in June and 21.1% from one year ago (1.90 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 3.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.9 months in June and down from the 4.2-month figure recorded in July 2019, the press release added.
Yun notes these dire inventory totals have a substantial effect on sales.
“The number of new listings is increasing, but they are quickly taken out of the market from heavy buyer competition,” he said. “More homes need to be built.”
Last week, NAR released its latest data for metro home prices, which found that in 2020’s second quarter, median single-family home prices saw an increase in 96% of measured markets when compared to a year earlier.
Properties typically remained on the market for 22 days in July, seasonally down from 24 days in June, and from 29 days in July 2019. Sixty-eight percent of homes sold in July 2020 was on the market for less than a month.
First-time buyers were responsible for 34% of sales in July, down from 35% in June 2020 and up from 32% in July 2019. NAR’s 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers – released in late 20194 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 33%.
Individual investors or second-home buyers, who account for many cash sales, purchased 15% of homes in July, up from both 9% in June 2020 and from 11% in July 2019. All-cash sales accounted for 16% of transactions in July, equal to the percentage in June 2020 and down from 19% in July 2019.
Distressed sales5 – foreclosures and short sales – represented less than 1% of sales in July, down from 3% in June up from 2% in June 2019.
“Homebuyers’ eagerness to secure housing has helped rejuvenate our nation’s economy despite incredibly difficult circumstances,” said NAR President Vince Malta, a broker at Malta & Co., Inc., in San Francisco in the news release. “Admittedly, we have a way to go toward full recovery, but I have faith in our communities, the real estate industry, and in NAR’s 1.4 million members, and I know collectively we will continue to mount an impressive recovery.”
Realtor.com®’s Market Hotness Index, measuring time-on-the-market data and listing views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in July were Topeka, Kan.; Rochester, N.Y.; Burlington, N.C.; Columbus, Ohio; and Reading, Pa.
According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate(link is external) for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 3.02% in July, down from 3.16% in June. The average commitment rate across all of 2019 was 3.94%.
Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales
Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million in July, up 23.9% from 4.26 million in June, and up 9.8% from one year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $307,800 in July, up 8.5% from July 2019.
Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 580,000 units in July, up 31.8% from June and equal to a year ago. The median existing condo price was $270,100 in July, an increase of 6.4% from a year ago.
“Luxury homes in the suburbs are attracting buyers after having lagged the broader market for the past couple of years,” Yun said. “Single-family homes are continuing to outperform condominium units, suggesting a preference shift for a larger home, including an extra room for a home office.”
For the second consecutive month, sales for July increased in every region and median home prices grew in each of the four major regions from one year ago.
July 2020 existing-home sales in the Northeast rocketed 30.6%, recording an annual rate of 640,000, a 5.9% decrease from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $317,800, up 4.0% from July 2019.
Existing-home sales jumped 27.5% in the Midwest to an annual rate of 1,390,000 in July, up 10.3% from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $244,500, an 8.0% increase from July 2019.
Existing-home sales in the South shot up 19.4% to an annual rate of 2.59 million in July, up 12.6% from the same time one year ago. The median price in the South was $268,500, a 9.9% increase from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West ascended 30.5% to an annual rate of 1,240,000 in July, a 7.8% increase from a year ago. The median price in the West was $453,800, up 11.3% from July 2019.
1 Existing-home sales, which include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, are based on transaction closings from Multiple Listing Services. Changes in sales trends outside of MLSs are not captured in the monthly series. NAR benchmarks home sales periodically using other sources to assess overall home sales trends, including sales not reported by MLSs.
Existing-home sales, based on closings, differ from the U.S. Census Bureau’s series on new single-family home sales, which are based on contracts or the acceptance of a deposit. Because of these differences, it is not uncommon for each series to move in different directions in the same month. Also, existing-home sales, which account for more than 90% of total home sales, are based on a much larger data sample – about 40% of multiple listing service data each month – and typically are not subject to large prior-month revisions.
The annual rate for a particular month represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative pace for that month were maintained for 12 consecutive months. Seasonally adjusted annual rates are used in reporting monthly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, home sales volume is normally higher in the summer than in the winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and family buying patterns. However, seasonal factors cannot compensate for abnormal weather patterns.
Single-family data collection began monthly in 1968, while condo data collection began quarterly in 1981; the series were combined in 1999 when monthly collection of condo data began. Before this period, single-family homes accounted for more than nine out of 10 purchases. Historic comparisons for total home sales before 1999 are based on monthly single-family sales, combined with the corresponding quarterly sales rate for condos.
2 The median price is where half sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical of market conditions than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to seasonality in buying patterns. Month-to-month comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns. Changes in the composition of sales can distort median price data. Year-ago median and mean prices sometimes are revised in an automated process if additional data is received.
The national median condo/co-op price often is higher than the median single-family home price because condos are concentrated in higher-cost housing markets. However, in a given area, single-family homes typically sell for more than condos as seen in NAR’s quarterly metro area price reports.
3 Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (before 1999, single-family sales accounted for more than 90% of transactions and condos were measured only every quarter).
4 Survey results represent owner-occupants and differ from separately reported monthly findings from NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, which include all types of buyers. Investors are under-represented in the annual study because survey questionnaires are mailed to the addresses of the property purchased and generally are not returned by absentee owners. Results include both new and existing homes.
5 Distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), days on market, first-time buyers, all-cash transactions, and investors are from a monthly survey for the NAR’s Realtors® Confidence Index, posted at nar.realtor.