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When it comes to existing-home sales and the national median home price, rates are on the rise.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), total existing-home sales, including single-family, townhomes, condos, and coops, grew by 2.3 percent for the month of July. Single-family home sales increased 2.1 percent. Existing condominium and co-op sales rose 4.3 percent.

All regions posted gains in existing-home sales for the month except for the West, which was unchanged from the month prior.

The national median home price rose by 9.4 percent over July 2011. It is now reported at $187,300. This is the fifth consecutive month of year-over-year gains. Median prices rose in all four regions across the nation.

The NAHB reports, "The last time there were five back-to-back monthly price increases from a year earlier was in January to May of 2006.  The July gain was the strongest since January 2006 when the median price rose 10.2 percent from a year earlier."

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said housing affordability conditions are very good. "Mortgage interest rates have been at record lows this year while rents have been rising at faster rates.  Combined, these factors are helping to unleash a pent-up demand," he said.  "However, the market is constrained by unnecessarily tight lending standards and shrinking inventory supplies, so housing could easily be much stronger without these abnormal frictions."

Not all housing sectors posted gains, however. The National Association of Home Builders reported a drop in new housing starts. "Nationwide housing production edged down 1.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 746,000 units in July, according to newly released figures from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau."

The NAHB also reports, though, that July saw a rise in the number of permits builders pulled. This indicates builder confidence that the months to come will bring with them ready and willing buyers.

"Our latest surveys confirm builders' increased confidence about future home buyer demand, and that's reflected in today's permit numbers," agreed NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe.

He says, "Increasingly, housing is re-emerging as a traditional and much-needed source of strength in local economies as builders are able to put more of their crews back to work. But two things that are slowing this process considerably are the challenges that builders continue to face in accessing credit for viable new projects and the difficulty of obtaining accurate appraisals on new homes."

Homes do appear to moving fairly quickly off the market. NAR President Moe Veissi, broker-owner of Veissi & Associates Inc., in Miami, said pricing is the primary factor in determining how long homes stay on the market. "Correctly priced homes, regardless of price range, are selling quickly these days," he said.

"Fully one-third of homes purchased in July were on the market for less than a month, and only 21 percent were on the market for six months or longer.  Sellers should carefully consider a Realtor's ® advice about marketing their homes," Veissi said.

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