Interest Rate Roundup

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Existing home sales slip in October

The National Association of Realtors just released details on the existing home market for October. Here's what the figures showed ...

* Sales dipped 2.2% to 4.43 million from 4.53 million in September. That slightly missed the average forecast for sales of 4.48 million, and was down 25.9% from October 2009. Single-family sales dipped 2% while sales of condominiums and co-ops dropped 3.6%.

* The supply of homes for sale fell 3.4% to 3.864 million from 4 million a month prior. But that was up 8.4% from a year earlier. Measured a different way, there was 10.5 months worth of inventory on the market at the current sales pace in October, down from 10.6 a month earlier. The single-family market held steady at 10.1 months of supply, while the condo/co-op market reading dipped to 13.4 from 14.

*Median home prices dipped slightly to $170,500 from $171,500 in September. That was also down 0.9% from a year earlier.

The housing market continues to stagnate as conflicting positive and negative forces roughly offset each other. Houses are cheap again after a long period of drastic overvaluation, and mortgage rates remain relatively low. But if you're not a plain-vanilla borrower who can qualify for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or FHA financing, you're having a tough time finding a mortgage lender willing to do business with you. The elevated unemployment rate and uncertainty about the future direction of home prices are also working against the recovery.

So my take? Get used to "boring" figures for a while -- relatively stable sales rates, relatively stable pricing, and relatively stable levels of construction activity. That's not as bad the freefall we were seeing a couple years ago, but it certainly isn't a robust recovery, either.


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