After Two Monthly Gains, Existing Home Sales Decline in October

Existing home sales declined 2.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million in October from 4.53 million in September according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

Year-to-date there were 4.149 million existing-home sales, down 2.9 percent from 4.272 million at this time in 2009.

“The housing market is experiencing an uneven recovery, and a temporary foreclosure stoppage in some states is likely to have held back a number of completed sales,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Still, sales activity is clearly off the bottom and is attempting to settle into normal sustainable levels,” he said. “Based on current and improving job market conditions, and from attractive affordability conditions, sales should steadily improve to healthier levels of above 5 million by spring of next year.”

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According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to a record low 4.23 percent in October from 4.35 percent in September; the rate was 4.95 percent in October 2009.

The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $170,500 in October, down 0.9 percent from October 2009. Distressed homes3 accounted for 34 percent of sales in October, compared with 35 percent in September and 30 percent of sales in October 2009.

NAR President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I., clarified that several factors are restraining a housing recovery, even with great affordability conditions. “We’ll likely see some impact from the foreclosure moratorium in the months ahead, but overly tight credit is making it difficult for some creditworthy borrowers to qualify for a mortgage, and we are continuing to deal with a notable share of appraisals coming in below a price negotiated between a buyer and seller,” he said.

“A return to common sense loan underwriting standards would go a long way toward achieving responsible, sustainable homeownership. In addition, all home valuations should be made by competent professionals with local expertise and full access to market data – there remains an elevated level of appraisals that fail to provide accurate valuation, which is causing a steady level of sales to be cancelled or postponed,” Phipps said.

 

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