Existing-home sales hit 6-year high in August

Existing-home sales were at their highest in six and a half years in August, rising 1.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.48 million. Specifically, single-family home sales were up 1.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.84 million.

Despite the record numbers, National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun cautioned that they may represent a temporary peak.

“Rising mortgage interest rates pushed more buyers to close deals, but monthly sales are likely to be uneven in the months ahead from several market frictions,” he said. “Tight inventory is limiting choices in many areas, higher mortgage interest rates mean affordability isn’t as favorable as it was, and restrictive mortgage lending standards are keeping some otherwise qualified buyers from completing a purchase.”

Meanwhile, NAR president Gary Thomas said rising home values may encourage more people to sell.

“As the equity position of most homeowners continues to improve, some who have been on the sidelines will list their home for sale,” he said. “Most of those owners also will be buying another home, but higher levels of new home construction going into 2014, combined with some reduction in demand from less favorable affordability conditions, will help to moderate price growth to more sustainable levels.”

August's figures were up from 5.39 million in July and realized a 13.2% year-over-year increase since August 2012's 4.84 million-unit rate. Existing home sales have remained above year-ago levels for the past 26 months.

Total housing inventory was up 0.4% to 2.25 million existing homes available for sale, representing a 4.9-month supply. This is down slightly from July's 5.0-month supply.

The median price, at $212,000, was at its ninth consecutive month of double-digit year-over-year increases and was up 14.7%, year-over-year. This represented the strongest year-ago increase since October 2005, when it rose 16.6%.

August's existing home sales are the highest since February 2007, when they hit 5.79 million.

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