Existing-home sales sprang ahead in May to their highest pace in almost a decade, while the uptick in demand this spring amidst lagging supply levels pushed the median sales price to an all-time high, according to the National Association of Realtors®. All major regions except for the Midwest saw strong sales increases last month.
Existing home sales grew 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.53 million in May from a downwardly revised 5.43 million in April. With last month’s gain, sales are now up 4.5 percent from May 2015 (5.29 million) and are at their highest annual pace since February 2007 (5.79 million).
Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors chief economist, says existing sales continue to hum along, rising in May for the third consecutive month. “This spring’s sustained period of ultra-low mortgage rates has certainly been a worthy incentive to buy a home, but the primary driver in the increase in sales is more homeowners realizing the equity they’ve accumulated in recent years and finally deciding to trade-up or downsize,” he said. “With first-time buyers still struggling to enter the market, repeat buyers using the proceeds from the sale of their previous home as their down payment are making up the bulk of home purchases right now.”
Adds Yun, “Barring further deceleration in job growth that could ultimately temper demand from these repeat buyers, sales have the potential to mostly maintain their current pace through the summer.”
Surpassing the peak median sales price set last June ($236,300), the median existing-home price for all housing types in May was $239,700, up 4.7 percent from May 2015 ($228,900). May’s price increase marks the 51st consecutive month of year-over-year gains.
Total housing inventory at the end of May rose 1.4 percent to 2.15 million existing homes available for sale, but is still 5.7 percent lower than a year ago (2.28 million). Unsold inventory is at a 4.7-month supply at the current sales pace, which is unchanged from April.
“Existing inventory remains subdued throughout much of the country and continues to lag even last year’s deficient amount,” adds Yun. “While new home construction has thankfully crept higher so far this year, there’s still a glaring need for even more, to help alleviate the supply pressures that are severely limiting choices and pushing prices out of reach for plenty of prospective first-time buyers.”