Home resales fall 1.8 percent amid rising prices on fewer listings.
WASHINGTON — Homebuyers faced surging prices and a shrinking number of properties for sale in June — causing the pace of sales to fall.
Sales of previously owned homes slipped 1.8 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.52 million, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.
The decline reflects the problems facing a U.S. housing market hampered by a worsening shortage of properties to buy. Despite solid demand in a relatively healthy economy for houses, sales listings have been steadily declining for more than two years. The resulting shortage has caused prices to consistently rise faster than wage gains, making it harder for more Americans to build up their net worth by becoming homeowners.
Sales have improved 0.7 percent over the past 12 months. The modest gains come despite solid levels of hiring that have pushed the unemployment rate to a healthy 4.4 percent, a level that in the past would have helped to fuel further sales growth.
Svenja Gudell, chief economist at the real estate firm Zillow, said the lack of sales listings may be bordering on a crisis.
“There are about as many homes for sale now as there were in 1994, except there are about 63 million more people in this country now than there were then,” Gudell said.
Many would-be homebuyers are unable to find properties to purchase.
The number of sales listings has been falling on an annual basis for the past 25 months. There were 1.96 million homes for sale in June, a 7.1 percent decline from a year ago.
“Housing is recovering,
but it’s not a healthy situation,” Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors’ chief economist, said at a news briefing accompanying the report. “There are affordability challenges. Homes prices have easily outpaced income growth, and first-time buyers are struggling to get into the market.”
First-time buyers made
up 32 percent of all sales in June, compared with 33 percent the previous month; 40 percent is the normal share, Yun said.
The shortage of houses on the market has caused prices to climb at more than double the pace of average hourly earnings.
The median sales price has risen 6.5 percent over the past year to $263,800. Adjusted for inflation, the median is about 9 percent below its 2006 peak during the housing bubble,
when subprime mortgages pushed prices to unsustainable highs.
David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Mutual Insurance, said that under normal circumstances, home sales could be expected to rise 8 percent to 10 percent, but the inventory shortage is reducing how many sales can be completed.
Homes sold in June at a median of 28 days, down from 34 days last year.
Sales declined last month in the Northeast, South and West
but increased in the Midwest.
Mortgage rates remain relatively low by historical standards, but they’re still higher than a year ago.
The average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rate was 4.03 percent last week, said mortgage buyer Freddie Mac, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. Last year, homebuyers could borrow at an average of 3.42 percent.