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Another Month of Strong Home Sales - NAR Existing-Home Sales Report for November 2012

December 20, 2012

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) released their Existing-Home Sales Report for November 2012.  In a nutshell, it's good news.  (Unless otherwise stated, the statistics provided in this summary are for all of the U.S.)

Key points in the report:

  • Total existing-home sales (completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops) rose 5.9% from October 2012 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million in November 2012
  • November numbers are 14.5% higher than the 4.40 million-unit pace recorded in November 2011
  • Sales are at the highest level since November 2009
  • The non-seasonally adjusted national median sales price of existing homes is up 10.1% from November 2011. This is the ninth consecutive monthly year-over-year price gain.

Does this increase in home sales mean that we are back to "normal"?  We're getting there.  As Bill McBride writes in his post "Existing Home Sales: Another Solid Report" on the blog Calculated Risk, "[b]ased on historical turnover rates, I think "normal" sales would be close to 5.0 million, so existing home sales at 5.04 million are pretty close to normal. However a "normal" market would have very few distressed sales, so there is still a long ways to go.  One key to returning to "normal" are more conventional sales and fewer distressed sales. The NAR reported total sales were up 14.5% from November 2011, but conventional sales are probably up more than 20% from November 2011 (and distressed sales down). "

Let's go sort of "local" for a minute.  The NAR report breaks up the U.S. into regions: Northeast, Midwest, South and West. Here are a couple of quick seasonally adjusted stats for the Western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming):

  • Total existing-home sales in the West rose 0.8% from October 2012 to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.19 million in November 2012
  • November home sales for the West were 4.4% higher than the the number of homes sold in November 2011

While it recorded the lowest percentage increase for existing-home sales among the 4 regions, the West had the highest percentage increase (23.9%) in median sales price vs November 2011.

National Association of Realtors November Existing Home Sales Report

NAR November 2012 Existing Home Sales Report Overview

Now, for some meatier stats...Inventory.  There has been a lot of talk lately about inventory, or, more specifically, the low levels of housing inventory in the U.S. right now.  As many readers know first hand, San Francisco and the Bay Area are notorious for having low inventory so we're used to this kind of real estate climate.  The reality is, inventory impacts sales price. If 10 buyers want the one and only Noe Valley single family home on the market, the sales price will creep up as a result of the pressure of competition among buyers.

Ok, let's look at some inventory numbers. Unfortunately, the NAR report doesn't provide inventory numbers for each region as they do for home sales and home prices.  As such, the following statistics are for the entire U.S.

  • Total housing inventory (all U.S.) at the end of November 2012 fell 3.8% from October 2012 to 2.03 million existing homes available for sale
  • 2.03 million homes represents a 4.8-month supply at the current sales pace.  To give some perspective, a year ago there was a 7.1-month supply (2,620,000 homes) and just last month in October 2012 there was a 5.3 month supply (2,110,000 homes)
  • November 2012 has the lowest housing supply since September of 2005 when it was 4.6 months
  • Listed inventory is 22.5% lower than it was a year ago

Inventory will most likely continue to decrease in December 2012 through January 2013 due to normal and expected seasonal patterns and will start to increase as Spring approaches. If you're planning to sell your home in San Francisco, you may want to consider moving up the timeline and catching this current wave of high home buyer demand / low listing inventory.

It's somewhat hard to glean much about what is happening in San Francisco and the Bay Area given that California is one of 13 states covered under the "West" region.  We'll go hyper-local about San Francisco housing sales and inventory in an upcoming post so keep your eyes peeled for it.  Or, sign up to receive our updates via email or RSS feed.  (pssst...scroll up a little and look on the right-hand sidebar for the box where you enter your email address to receive our posts via email or go up to the top of the page and click on the RSS feed icon.)

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