New home sales lost momentum in October while the resale market continued to surge due to lower mortgage rates and the extended homebuyer tax credit. Seasonally-adjusted new home sales fell 11.3% from the previous month to an annual rate of 355,000 units. The seasonally-adjusted annual rate of new home sales in November is back down to its lowest levels since April. New home sales for the previous three months were also revised lower by 49,000 units. It is worrisome that lower rates and the extended housing tax credit were not enough to fuel demand for new homes in November.
While the new home affordability ratio remains at very high levels, it is still almost 10 percentage points higher than the existing home ratio. Median new home prices in November rose to $217,400 from a downwardly amount of $209,400 in October. Prices increased 3.8% from the previous month but are still 1.9% lower than they were this time last year. Median new home prices have now recorded 11 straight months of year-over-year declines. Further price cuts and use of incentives may be necessary to attract demand in the new homes market. However, the continued reduction in inventory levels is a positive sign for stabilization in the new homes market. In November, new home inventories declined to 234,00 units from an October figure of 241,000 on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. Seasonally-adjusted inventory of unsold homes have declined for 31 straight months to 235,000 units.
Sales in the existing home market remained strong in November. The seasonally-adjusted annual rate of all existing homes jumped 7.4% from October levels to 6,540,000 units. This is the highest the seasonally-adjusted annual rate of existing home sales since February 2007. Existing single-family home sales increased 8.5% from last month while condo and co-op sales remained flat from October levels at 770,000 units. Lower mortgage rates and the extended housing tax credit have kept buyers interested due to all-time high affordability.
In November, the median sales price for an existing home increased slightly to $172,600 from $172,200 in October. This was the first gain in median existing home prices since June although prices are still 4.3% lower than they were this time last year. Existing home inventory posted declines for the fourth consecutive month in November, easing 1.3% to 3,518,000 units from a revised 3,565,000 units in October. This is the lowest level of existing home inventory on the market since December 2006.
After rising for nine consecutive months, the National Association of Realtor’s pending home sales index in November fell for the first time since January. The Pending Home sales Index, which is a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in November, dropped 16.0% to a reading of 96.0 from an upwardly revised reading of 114.3 in October.
National average mortgage rates declined from the previous week to 5.09% in the latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey released weekly by Freddie Mac on January 7th. This was the first weekly decline for average fixed rates since the beginning of December. Rates had been steadily moving higher and increased for four straight weeks before this past week’s decline. In the week ending January 1st, the MBA’s seasonally-adjusted purchase index increased 3.6% from the previous week but was still down 36.33% compared to the same time last year. This was the first weekly gain for the purchase index in the past month while the year-over-year drop in the purchase index is the largest since February 2009.