Existing home sales in the U.S. continued to improve in the month of August, according to a report released by the National Association of Realtors on Wednesday, with sales rising by much more than economists had anticipated.
NAR said existing home sales jumped 7.8 percent to an annual rate of 4.82 million in August from 4.47 million in July. Economists had expected existing home sales to climb to an annual rate of 4.55 million.
With the bigger than expected monthly increase, existing home sales in August are up 9.3 percent from 4.41 million in the same month a year ago and are at their highest level since May of 2010.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said, "The housing market is steadily recovering with consistent increases in both home sales and median prices. More buyers are taking advantage of excellent housing affordability conditions."
"Inventories in many parts of the country are broadly balanced, favoring neither sellers nor buyers," he added. "However, the West and Florida markets are experiencing inventory shortages, which are placing pressure on prices."
The report showed that the national median existing home price edged down 0.2 percent to $187,400 in August from $187,800 in July but is up 9.5 percent from a year ago.
The increase compared to the same month a year ago reflects the sixth consecutive month of year-over-year growth, marking the first time there were six back-to-back price increases since December 2005 to May 2006.
NAR said distressed homes accounted for 22 percent of August sales, down from 24 percent in July and 31 percent in August of 2011.
Total housing inventories rose 2.9 percent to 2.47 million existing homes available for sale at the end August. The current inventory level represents 6.1 months of supply at the current sales pace, down from 6.4 months of supply in July.
The report also showed that single-family home sales rose 8.0 percent to an annual rate of 4.30 million in August, while existing condominium and co-op sales increased 6.1 percent to an annual rate of 520,000.
Existing home sales rose in all four regions of the country, with the strongest percentage growth seen in the Northeast, which saw an 8.6 percent increase in sales.
The West saw an 8.3 percent increase in existing home sales, while sales in the Midwest and the South rose by 7.7 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Commerce Department released a report showing that housing starts rebounded in August but still came in below economist estimates.
The Commerce Department said housing starts rose 2.3 percent to an annual rate of 750,000 in August from the revised July estimate of 733,000. Economists had expected starts to climb to 768,000 from the 746,000 originally reported for the previous month.
Building permits, an indicator of future housing demand, fell 1.0 percent to an annual rate of 803,000 in August from 811,000 in July.
Next Wednesday, the Commerce Department is due to release a separate report on new home sales in the month of August.
by RTT Staff Writer
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