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Existing-Home Sales Ease In May

June 27, 2006

WASHINGTON – Sales of existing homes experienced a minor decline in May with home prices rising near normal rates, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Total existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – eased 1.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 6.67 million units in May from a pace of 6.75 million in April, and were 6.6 percent below the 7.14 million-unit level in May 2005.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said conditions are mixed around the country. “There’s now a clear pattern of slower home-sales activity in many higher cost markets, which are more sensitive to rises in interest rates, and higher home sales in moderately priced areas which have experienced job growth,” he said. “Although mortgage interest rates remain historically low, the uptrend in interest rates this year is affecting those buyers who are at the margins of affordability.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 6.60 percent in May, up from 6.51 percent in April; the rate was 5.72 percent in May 2005.

The national median existing-home price2 for all housing types was $230,000 in May, up 6.0 percent from May 2005 when the median was $217,000. The median is a typical market price where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less. “Overall price appreciation has returned to normal levels as the supply of homes on the market has risen to a balanced range,” Lereah said.

Total housing inventory levels rose 5.5 percent at the end of May to 3.60 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.5-month supply at the current sales pace.

NAR President Thomas M. Stevens from Vienna, Va., said it’s important to keep the current market in perspective. “We didn’t break the 6-million sales barrier until 2003, so the current level of home sales is still pretty healthy by historic standards,” said Stevens, senior vice president of NRT Inc. “Housing is continuing to support the overall economy by providing a sound foundation for other sectors to grow – the normalization that is taking place in the housing market is good for the long-term health of the industry.”

Existing condominium and cooperative housing sales rose 1.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 852,000 units in May from a pace of 836,000 in April, but were 6.6 percent below the 912,000-unit pace in May 2005. The median existing condo price3 was $229,300 in May, up 1.9 percent from a year earlier.

Single-family home sales slipped 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.82 million in May from 5.91 million in April, and were 6.6 percent below the 6.23 million-unit level in May 2005. The median existing single-family home price was $229,700 in May, up 6.4 percent from a year ago.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the West rose 0.7 percent to an annual pace of 1.41 million in May, but were 13.5 percent lower than May 2005. The median price in the West was $345,000, up 4.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South increased 0.4 percent to a pace of 2.62 million in May, and were 3.7 percent below May 2005. The median existing-home price in the South was $190,000, up 5.6 percent from a year earlier.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales declined 3.8 percent in May to a level of 1.51 million, and were 5.6 percent lower than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $174,000, up 1.2 percent from May 2005.

Existing-home sales in the Northeast dropped 4.2 percent to an annual sales rate of 1.13 million units in May, and were 5.0 percent below a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $287,000, up 7.1percent from May 2005.

Source: The National Association of Realtors



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