Wondering what’s going on across the country in terms of real estate? Inventory increased and metro market prices rose at a slower pace in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of Realtors®. The national median existing single-family home price in the quarter was $257,600, up 4.0 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017 ($247,800).
Single-family home prices increased in 92 percent of measured markets last quarter, with 163 out of 178 metropolitan statistical areas1 (MSAs) showing sales price gains in the fourth quarter compared to a year ago. Fourteen metro areas (8 percent) experienced double-digit increases, down from 18 in the third quarter, according to the NAR report.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said in light of the various hurdles for 2018, the close of the fourth quarter was promising. “Home prices continued to rise in the vast majority of markets but with inventory steadily increasing, home prices are, on average, rising at a slower and healthier pace,” he said.
Total existing-home sales2, including single family homes and condos, decreased 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.180 million in the fourth quarter, down from 5.273 million in the third quarter. That number is 7.4 percent lower than the 5.593 million-pace during the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the NAR report.
Yun said the West Coast needs more homes built. “The West region, where home prices have nearly doubled in six years, is undergoing the biggest shift with the slowest price gain and large buyer pullback.”
At the end of the fourth quarter, there were 1.55 million existing homes available for sale3, 6.2 percent above the 1.46 million homes for sale at the end of the fourth quarter in 2017. The average supply during the fourth quarter was 4.0 months – up from 3.5 months in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the NAR report.
National family median income rose to $77,3924 in the fourth quarter, while overall affordability decreased from a year ago due to higher mortgage rates and home prices. To purchase a single-family home at the national median price, a buyer making a 5 percent down payment would need an income of $62,954, while a 10 percent down payment would require an income of $59,640, and $53,013 would be necessary for a 20 percent down payment, according to the NAR report.
The five most expensive housing markets in the fourth quarter were the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California metro area, where the median existing single-family price was $1,250,000; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California, $952,400; Urban Honolulu, $812,900; Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine, California, $799,000; and San Diego-Carlsbad, $626,000, according to the NAR report.
The five lowest-cost metro areas in the fourth quarter were Decatur, Illinois, $89,300; Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio, $97,200; Cumberland, Maryland, $109,100; Elmira, New York, $111,400; and Erie, Pennsylvania, $113,300, according to the NAR report.
Metro area condominium and cooperative prices – covering changes in 61 metro areas – showed the national median existing-condo price was $237,900 in the fourth quarter, up 0.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017 ($237,100). Seventy-five percent of metro areas showed gains in median condo prices from a year ago, according to the NAR report.
“Housing affordability will be the key to sustained healthy growth in the housing market in the upcoming years. That requires more homebuilding of moderately priced homes,” Yun said. “Housing starts fell far short of historically normal levels, with only 9.6 million new housing units added in the past decade; compared to 15 to 16 million that would have been needed to meet our growing population and 20 million new job additions.
“Local zoning law changes, expanding construction worker training programs at trade schools and promoting the use of tax breaks for developers in the designated Opportunity Zones will all play an important role in assuring an adequate future supply of housing,” Yun said.
Total existing-home sales in the Northeast sat at an annual rate of 707,000 (up 3.9 percent from last quarter) and are down 5.4 percent from a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Northeast was $286,000 in the fourth quarter, up 6.5 percent from a year ago, according to the NAR report.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales fell 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter and are 5.9 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the Midwest set at $196,900, a 1.6 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2017.
Existing-home sales in the South declined 2 percent in the fourth quarter and were 5.4 percent lower than the fourth quarter of 2017. The median existing single-family home price in the South was $228,200 in the fourth quarter, 3.3 percent above a year ago.
In the West, existing-home sales in the fourth quarter decreased by 6.5 percent and are 13.9 percent below a year ago. The median existing single-family home price in the West increased 1.8 percent year over year to $383,100, all of this according to the NAR report.
NOTE: According to its website: NAR releases quarterly median single-family price data for approximately 175 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs). In some cases the MSA prices may not coincide with data released by state and local Realtor® associations. Any discrepancy may be due to differences in geographic coverage, product mix, and timing. In the event of discrepancies, Realtors® are advised that for business purposes, local data from their association may be more relevant.
Data tables for MSA home prices (single family and condo) are posted at http://www.realtor.org/topics/metropolitan-median-area-prices-and-affordability. If insufficient data is reported for a MSA in particular quarter, it is listed as N/A. For areas not covered in the tables, please contact the local association of Realtors®.
1Areas are generally metropolitan statistical areas as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. NAR adheres to the OMB definitions, although in some areas an exact match is not possible from the available data. A list of counties included in MSA definitions is available at: http://www.census.gov/population/estimates/metro-city/List4.txt(link is external).
Regional median home prices are from a separate sampling that includes rural areas and portions of some smaller metros that are not included in this report; the regional percentage changes do not necessarily parallel changes in the larger metro areas. The only valid comparisons for median prices are with the same period a year earlier due to seasonality in buying patterns. Quarter-to-quarter comparisons do not compensate for seasonal changes, especially for the timing of family buying patterns.
Median price measurement reflects the types of homes that are selling during the quarter and can be skewed at times by changes in the sales mix. For example, changes in the level of distressed sales, which are heavily discounted, can vary notably in given markets and may affect percentage comparisons. Annual price measures generally smooth out any quarterly swings.
NAR began tracking of metropolitan area median single-family home prices in 1979; the metro area condo price series dates back to 1989.
Because there is a concentration of condos in high-cost metro areas, the national median condo price often is higher than the median single-family price. In a given market area, condos typically cost less than single-family homes. As the reporting sample expands in the future, additional areas will be included in the condo price report.
2The seasonally adjusted annual rate for a particular quarter represents what the total number of actual sales for a year would be if the relative sales pace for that quarter was maintained for four consecutive quarters. Total home sales include single family, townhomes, condominiums and co-operative housing.
3Total inventory and month’s supply data are available back through 1999, while single-family inventory and month’s supply are available back to 1982 (prior to 1999, single-family sales accounted for more than 90 percent of transactions and condos were measured only on a quarterly basis).
Seasonally adjusted rates are used in reporting quarterly data to factor out seasonal variations in resale activity. For example, sales volume normally is higher in the summer and relatively light in winter, primarily because of differences in the weather and household buying patterns.
4Income figures are rounded to the nearest hundred, based on NAR modeling of Census data. Qualifying income requirements are determined using several scenarios on down payment percentages and assume 25 percent of gross income devoted to mortgage principal and interest at a mortgage interest rate of 3.9 percent, all according to NAR.