Perception of a housing crisis

If you’ve watched the news lately, you might get the feeling that the housing market is imploding.  Unfortunately, the talking heads are reporting the titles of the news releases, such as the October 20th National Association of Realtors press release headline “Existing-Home Sales Decreased 1.5% in September,” without delving into the details. Like anything else that’s reported, just parroting a headline doesn’t tell the entire story. Get the big picture and avert the perception of a housing crisis.

perception of a housing crisis
Home price forecast

Here are the highlights of the NAR report: “Existing-home sales sagged for the eighth consecutive month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.71 million. Sales slipped 1.5% from August and 23.8% from the previous year. The median existing-home sales price increased to $384,800, up 8.4% from one year ago. The inventory of unsold existing homes declined for the second straight month to 1.25 million by the end of September, or the equivalent of 3.2 months’ supply at the current monthly sales pace.”

The takeaway is that yes, existing-home sales have been sluggish (eight consecutive months), however does that mean a housing crash? No. Consider the other important data points included in the news release: the median existing-home sale price increased 8.4 percent year-over-year, AND the inventory of unsold homes continues to decrease.

What’s your perception of a housing crisis ? For many, the memories are still fresh of the housing crisis of 2007 and subsequent foreclosure crisis. So, it’s not surprising that the media’s alarms go off when existing-home sales drop as they did recently. However, the fundamentals of today’s housing market are much different than that of 2008-2010. During the housing crisis of 2007, home sale prices plummeted when home sales dropped. Additionally, inventories of unsold homes swelled to record levels.

Today’s housing market is much different and looking at the entire picture, the stats tell a different story than what is being portrayed by the media. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun chalks up the decline in sales to increasing mortgage interest rates, which are approaching the accepted historical average of 7 to 8 percent.  He also points out “…Despite weaker sales, multiple offers are still occurring with more than a quarter of homes selling above list price due to limited inventory… The current lack of supply underscores the vast contrast with the previous major market downturn from 2008 to 2010, when inventory levels were four times higher than they are today.”

By Dan Krell
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