Boosted by historically low mortgage rates, existing home sales, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), rose for a fourth consecutive month in September and reached its highest level in more than 14 ½ years.
Total existing home sales, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, increased 9.4% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.54 million in September, the highest level since May 2006. On a year-over-year basis, sales were 20.9% higher than a year ago.
The first-time buyer share decreased to 31% in September from 33% both last month and a year ago. However, price gains threaten this share in the future. The September inventory level fell to 1.47 million units from 1.49 million units in August and is down from 1.82 million units a year ago.
At the current sales rate, the September unsold inventory represents a 2.7-month supply, down from 3.0-month in August and 4.0-month a year ago. This low level supply of resale homes is good news for home construction.
Homes stayed on the market for an average of just 21 days in September, an all-time low, down from 22 days last month and 32 days a year ago. In September, 71% of homes sold were on the market for less than a month.
The September all-cash sales share was 18% of transactions, unchanged from last month but up from 17% a year ago.
Tight supply continues to push up home prices. The September median sales price of all existing homes was $311,800, up 14.8% from a year ago, representing the 103rd consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The median existing condominium/co-op price of $272,700 in September was up 9.9% from a year ago.
Regionally, all four regions saw month-over-month gains for existing home sales in September, ranging from 7.1% in the Midwest to 16.2% in the Northeast. On a year-over-year basis, sales grew in all four regions as well, with the Northeast seeing the greatest gain (22.9%).
Though sales have flourished and demand remains strong due to low mortgage rates, the imbalance between housing supply and demand could hamper future sales. Low inventory will not only continue to drive up home prices but also hurt affordability and homeownership attainment. Though housing starts remain at solid pace, more listings and home construction are still needed to meet this rising demand.