Oct. 19, 2012 at 10:12 AM ET
Home resales fell in September as the stock of properties on the market fell, a reminder that America's housing sector is a long way from a full recovery despite recent signs of improvement.
The National Association of Realtors said on Friday that existing home sales dropped 1.7 percent last month to an seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.75 million units.
That matched the median forecast made by analysts in a Reuters poll.
Nationwide, the median price for a home resale was $183,900 in September, up 11.3 percent from a year earlier as fewer people sold their homes under distressed conditions compared to a year earlier. Distressed sales include foreclosures.
The nation's inventory of homes - those for sale on the market - fell 3.3 percent during the month to 2.32 million.
At the current pace of sales, inventories would be exhausted in 5.9 months, the lowest rate since March 2006, the NAR said.
Lawrence Yun, an economist at the NAR, said the low level of inventories was partially due to a lack of new homes. The rate of groundbreaking on new homes rose sharply in September but remained about 60 percent below its 2006 peak.
“Despite occasional month-to-month setbacks, we’re experiencing a genuine recovery,” Yun said. “More people are attempting to buy homes than are able to qualify for mortgages, and recent price increases are not deterring buyer interest. Rather, inventory shortages are limiting sales, notably in parts of the West.”
Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 6.3 percent to an annual level of 590,000 in September but are 7.3 percent above September 2011. The median price in the Northeast was $238,700, up 4.1 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the Midwest slipped 0.9 percent in September to a pace of 1.10 million but are 19.6 percent higher than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $145,200, up 7.0 percent from September 2011.
In the South, existing-home sales increased 0.5 percent to an annual level of 1.93 million in September and are 14.2 percent above September 2011. The median price in the region was $163,600, up 13.1 percent from a year ago.
Existing-home sales in the West fell 3.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.13 million in September but are 0.9 percent above a year ago. With continuing inventory shortages in the region, the median price in the West was $246,300, which is 18.4 percent higher than September 2011.
The price increase last month was measured against September 2011, and since then distressed sales have fallen to 24 percent of total sales from 30 percent.
Still, the share of distressed sales, which also include those there the sales price was below the amount owed on the home, increased in September of this year from 22 percent in August.
Reuters contributed to this story.
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