Sales of existing homes rose for the first time in four months in September as the industry braked its sharpest decline in almost two years,
The National Association of Realtors reported that purchases of previously occupied homes gained 0.7 percent last month despite the ravages of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, to an annual pace of 5.39 million. The prior month's 5.35 million rate was unrevised. Economists in the Reuters survey had predicted 5.3 million sales.
From March's decade high rate of 5.7 million yearly units, sales dropped in four of the next five months, all told decreasing 6 percent to 5.35 million home in August. Sales in September were down 1.5 percent on the year, the first annual decline since July 2016.
Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast on August 25th and then Louisiana on the 29th. Its impact had already been factored into August sales figures and continued into September.
Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys on September 10th and made a fast progress up the west coast of Florida and though a much more powerful hurricane, caused less damage than the prolonged and extensive flooding in Houston and elsewhere which accompanied Harvey.
Texas and Florida are two of the fastest growing states in the U.S., together they make up more than 18 percent of the nation's existing home sales.
Houston's market has recovered quickly, with a 4 percent gain on the year in September. Sales in Florida were down 22 percent in September from a year ago.
The number of homes for sale was off 6.4 percent in September over the prior 12 months. Inventory has fallen for two years.
At the current sales rate it would take 4.2 months to clear existing inventory, down from 4.5 months last September. Six months is normally considered a well-balanced market. Homes were on the markets for an average of 34 days, contrasted with 39 days year ago.
The median selling prices was $245,100, 4.2 percent higher than a year ago. The increase has largely been driven by the relative scarcity of homes on the market, particularly in the entry price range, wages, inflation and mortgage rates being little changed.
Regional sales were led by a 3.3 percent gain in the West followed by 1.6 percent in the Midwest. Purchases fell 0.9 percent in the South and were flat in the Northeast.
Chief Market Strategist
WorldWideMarkets Online Trading
Charts: WorldWideMarkets Alpha Trader, Thomson/Reuters
Existing Home Sales