Confirming that when it comes to providing credible, timely information, the NAR is second to none with its release that while the market was tumbling, the economy was collapsing (recall that abysmal August Philly Fed number), the US was on the verge of bankruptcy, and Europe was getting deliquified... existing home sales soared by 7.7% from 4.57 million to 5.03 million, on expectations of a modest rise to 4.75 million. No typhoons, rogue trades, abnormal heat or cold, earthquakes, High Frequency Trading or any other "transitory" events were 'blamed' for this stunning beat. Well actually Irene was blamed for the number not being even bigger. All is well: supposedly we can now take Operation Twist off the table.
Then again, visualizing the data... Leave a little to be desired (keep in mind the year ago drop was due to the govt tax benefit remission).
From the NAR release:
Existing-home sales increased in August, even with ongoing tight credit and appraisal problems, along with regional disruptions created by Hurricane Irene, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Monthly gains were seen in all regions.
Total existing-home sales1, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 7.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million in August from an upwardly revised 4.67 million in July, and are 18.6 percent higher than the 4.24 million unit level in August 2010.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there are some positive market fundamentals. “Some of the improvement in August may result from sales that were delayed in preceding months, but favorable affordability conditions and rising rents are underlying motivations,” he said. “Investors were more active in absorbing foreclosed properties. In additional to bargain hunting, some investors are in the market to hedge against higher inflation.”
Investors2 accounted for 22 percent of purchase activity in August, up from 18 percent in July and 21 percent in August 2010. First-time buyers purchased 32 percent of homes in August, unchanged from July; they were 31 percent in August 2010.
All-cash sales accounted for 29 percent of transactions in August, unchanged from July; they were 28 percent in August 2010; investors account for the bulk of cash purchases.
“We had some disruptions from Hurricane Irene in the closing weekend of August, when many sales normally are finalized, along the Eastern seaboard and in New England,” Yun said. “As a result, the Northeast saw the smallest sales gain in August, and some general impact is expected in September with widespread flooding from Tropical Storm Lee. Aberrations in housing data are possible over the next couple months as markets recover from disrupted closings and storm damage.”
Total housing inventory at the end of August fell 3.0 percent to 3.58 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.5-month supply4 at the current sales pace, down from a 9.5-month supply in July.
Of course this as usual excludes the millions and millions of homes in shadow inventory.
As for median home price, well...
The national median existing-home price3 for all housing types was $168,300 in August, which is 5.1 percent below August 2010. Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales typically sold at deep discounts – accounted for 31 percent of sales in August, compared with 29 percent in July and 34 percent in August 2010.
Hmm, perhaps there is more to this number than the headline reveals.