Boing: Home sales bounce back in September

Sales of existing homes increased 2.4 percent to an annual rate of 5.17 million in September, their highest annual pace this year the National Association of Realtors said Tuesday.

Coming on the heels of a modest decline in August for existing-home sales, the September report from the Realtors group was welcome news.

“Low interest rates and price gains holding steady led to September’s healthy increase, even with investor activity remaining on par with last month’s marked decline,” Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist, said in the report. “Traditional buyers are entering a less competitive market with fewer investors searching for available homes, but may also face a slight decline in choices due to the fact that inventory generally falls heading into the winter.”

Although sales in September were at the highest pace of the year, they remain about 1.7 percent below the 5.26 million existing-home sales in the same month of 2013.

The midpoint price for existing homes was $209,700 in September, up 5.6 percent from the same month in 2013 and the 31st straight month of year-over-year price gains.

All-cash sales, a sign of stress in the housing market, were at 24 percent in September, up a percentage point from August but well below the 34 percent mark from September 2013. Individual investors, who make up almost two-thirds of the cash market, purchased 14 percent of the existing homes sold in September. That’s up from 12 percent a month earlier but below the 19 percent of a year earlier.

Similarly, sales of homes in foreclosure or at a loss to the mortgage lender_ called a short sale_ increased slightly to 10 percent of all homes sold in September, from 8 percent in August. Both are below the 14 percent in September 2013.

“The news on the housing market in this report is generally positive,” economists with forecaster RDQ Economics in New York concluded in a note to investors, adding that “the signs of life in the housing market are generally positive and the resale market appears to be strengthening again.”