New Homes Sales Up 5.5% -- Believe It?

You have to get through the NAR’s spin — this report is titled “Existing-Home Sales Rise on Improved Affordability” — but it’s rare to see any positive number asociated with the real estate market, unless you’re talking about foreclosures.

Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 5.5 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate¹ of 5.18 million units in September from a level of 4.91 million in August, and are 1.4 per cent higher than the 5.11 million-unit pace in September 2007.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said more markets are seeing year-over-year gains. “The sales turnaround which began in California several months ago is broadening now to Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Rhode Island,” he said. “The South was hampered by much lower home sales in Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.”

NAR President Richard F. Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif., said low home prices and low interest rates have been attracting buyers. “This is the first time since November 2005 that home sales have been above year-ago levels,” he said. “Credit tightened at the end of September, but the improvement demonstrates that buyers who’ve been on the sidelines want to get into the market to make a long-term investment in their future.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 6.04 per cent in September from 6.48 per cent in August; the rate was 6.38 per cent in September 2007.

The NAR acknowledges that the credit markets aren’t settled yet, and that falling home prices continue to keep buyers at bay.

A little more good news:

Total housing inventory at the end of September fell 1.6 per cent to 4.27 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 9.9-month supply² at the current sales pace, down from a 10.6-month supply in August. This marks two consecutive monthly declines since inventories peaked in July

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