U.S. home sales hit a low for the year

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - PRIME PROPERTY - By Josh Boak

WASH­ING­TON — Amer­i­cans re­treated from buy­ing homes in July as sales sank to their low­est level of the year.

The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors said this past week that sales of ex­ist­ing homes fell 1.3 per­cent to a sea­son­ally ad­justed an­nual rate of 5.44 mil­lion. De­spite the sec­ond straight monthly drop, sales are 2.1 per­cent higher than a year ago. But pur­chases are start­ing to slow as fewer prop­er­ties are com­ing onto the mar­ket.

The real es­tate mar­ket is grap­pling with the con­se­quences of a per­sis­tent short­age of homes for sale de­spite strong de­mand from would-be buy­ers. The de­cline in list­ings has driven up prices and made many homes un­af­ford­able: Prices are ris­ing faster than the wages of po­ten­tial buy­ers de­spite a solid job mar­ket.

“For more than two years now, in­ven­tory has been has been con­tract­ing, push­ing the hous­ing mar­ket into an in­ven­tory cri­sis,” said Svenja Gudell, chief econ­o­mist at the real es­tate firm Zil­low.

The num­ber of ex­ist­ing homes listed for sale has plunged 9 per­cent over the past 12 months to 1.92 mil­lion. In the mean­time, the me­dian sales price has risen 6.2 per­cent to $258,300 — more than dou­ble the pace of growth in av­er­age hourly earn­ings.

The lack of homes on the mar­ket is also caus­ing prop­er­ties to sell more quickly. The av­er­age num­ber of days on the mar­ket was 30 in July, com­pared with 36 a year ago.

In July, sales plum­meted 14.5 per­cent in the North­east and fell 5.3 per­cent in the Mid­west. But buy­ing picked up 2.2 per­cent in the South and 5 per­cent in the West.

Home­own­ers are in­creas­ingly stay­ing put rather than mov­ing. The av­er­age ten­ure of some­one sell­ing their home in July was 8.28 years, ac­cord­ing to ATTOM Data So­lu­tions. The real es­tate data com­pany says that av­er­age pe­riod of own­er­ship was the high­est recorded for fig­ures dat­ing to 2000.

Cal­i­for­nia and New Eng­land are where home­own­ers have re­mained the long­est be­fore sell­ing. Many of these mar­kets are pricey or have ex­pe­ri­enced ma­jor jumps in home val­ues in re­cent years.

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