Existing-home sales on an upswing last month
Existing-home sales rose slightly in November, an indication the market could be stabilizing, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).
Total existing-home sales — including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops — rose 0.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5 million units in November, from an upwardly revised pace of 4.98 million in October. Those numbers still are 20.0 percent below the 6.25 million-unit level in November 2006.
“Near-term, existing-home sales should continue to hover in a narrow range, just as they have since September, and that’s good news because it’ll be a further sign that the housing market is stabilizing,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. Yun said disruptions in mortgage availability and pricing peaked in August, which caused sales to slow in subsequent months.
The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $210,200 in November, down 3.3 percent from November 2006 when the median was $217,300. However, “there remains a downward drag” on the national median home price as sales have shifted away from expensive markets, according to the NAR.
Total housing inventory declined 3.6 percent at the end of November to 4.27 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.3-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 10.7-month supply in October.
According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 6.21 percent in November from 6.38 percent in October; the rate was 6.24 percent in November 2006.
As for single-family homes alone, sales rose 0.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.40 million in November from 4.37 million in October, but are 19.9 percent below the 5.49 million-unit pace in November 2006. The median existing single-family home price was $208,700 in November, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier.
Regionally, existing-home sales in the West increased 10.3 percent in November to a level of 960,000, but are 25 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $325,800, which is 6.8 percent lower than November 2006.
In the Midwest, existing-home sales were unchanged at an annual rate of 1.18 million in November, but are 16.9 percent below November 2006. The median price in the Midwest was $163,000, down 0.5 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the South declined 2.0 percent to an annual rate of 1.99 million in November, and are 19.4 percent below a year ago. The median price in the South was $174,200, which is 2.5 percent below November 2006.
Existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 3.3 percent to an annual pace of 870,000 in November, and are 19.4 percent below November 2006. The median price in the Northeast was $258,300, down 3.2 percent from a year ago.
Ohio-based builder takes further land charges
M/I Homes, a Columbus, Ohio-based home builder with operations in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic region and Florida, said it will take an $82 million hit in the fourth quarter on land impairment charges.
The home builder took charges on the sale of 3,700 lots, approximately 22 percent of its total lots owned at the end of the quarter. The builder also sold all its lots in West Palm Beach, Fla., saying it will exit that market entirely.
“This sale represents a meaningful and important reduction in our land holdings,” said M/I Homes CEO and president Robert Schottenstein. “Our West Palm operation has been our smallest for more than 10 years, and we believe that disposing of our West Palm assets during these challenging times is the right decision for M/I Homes.”
M/I Homes has operations in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
Former Sears chief dies at 73
Edward A. Brennan, who served as CEO and chairman of the board for Sears, Roebuck & Co. from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, died at his home in Burr Ridge, Ill., following a brief illness. He was 73.
Brennan became CEO of Sears in 1986, when the company was the nation’s largest retailer and occupied the iconic Sears tower in Chicago. At that time, the retailer also managed big-name ancillary companies, including Coldwell Banker, Dean Witter, Discover and Allstate Insurance. Brennan served as CEO until 1995, through a period that saw Sears’ strong market presence decline in the face of pressures from big-box and discount retailers like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe’s and others.
Prior to his service as CEO, Brennan was named president of Sears Merchandise Group in 1980, then to the post of corporate president and COO in 1984.
Following his tenure at Sears, Brennan served as a director at American Airlines and was named executive chairman and president of American in 2003, after the company’s CEO resigned abruptly. He served as CEO of American Airlines for one year.
Aprivate service was held Dec. 31 in Willowbrook, Ill. Brennan is survived by his wife, Lois, six children and 19 grandchildren.