Americans are “striking while the housing market is hot” as new home sales rose 6.6% in September. The upward increase is signaling to builders that credit markets are beginning to loosen up and the market is on its way to recovery.
For several months mortgage lenders and real estate authorities have urged the public to consider buying a home today due to historically low rates, discounted prices and high inventory. From the latest numbers, it appears that buyers are listening.
In addition to the new home sale increase, existing home sales also spiked 10% last month. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that this boost is the second consecutive month the market experienced an existing home sale increase.
Repeat buyers led the charge, making up 50% of September purchases, followed by first time home buyers snapping up 32% of the sales. Investors are still hanging in there making up 18% of all buyers.
Regionally, existing home sales rose in the Midwest by 14.5%, followed by 10.6% in the South, 10.1% in the Northeast and 5% in the West.
NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, sounded optimistic that the market is on the road to recovery. “A housing recovery is taking place but will be choppy at times depending on the duration and impact of a foreclosure moratorium. But the overall direction should be a gradual rising trend in home sales with buyers responding to historically low mortgage interest rates and very favorable affordability conditions.”
The boost is not confined exclusively to single family homes. Condominium and co-op home sales increased 9.8% with the median condo home price hovering at $165,400; down from $172,600 a year ago.
Affordable Prices Combined with Low Mortgage Rates Creates Fertile Buying Ground
Buyers are in the unique position where they have extensive inventory combined with affordable prices and rock bottom rates. For example, the national median price for existing homes was 2.4% below what was being offered the same time last year. Fueling lower prices are foreclosed and distressed properties that made up 35% of the sales in September compared to 29% a year ago.
Vicki Golder, NAR president explains that a decade ago mortgage rates were almost double what they are today and home prices are 22% less than what buyers saw five years ago.
She adds that buying a home is almost more affordable than renting because the median monthly mortgage payment is less than what people are paying in some areas.
Mortgage rates continue to hold steady at rates not seen for decades. Although Freddie Mac reported a slight increase in the 30 year fixed rate mortgage last month, rates for this product continue to remain undeniably low. In September, a 30 year fixed rate product averaged 4.23% (compared to 5.09% last year); whereas a 15 year fixed rate mortgage was at 3.66% (compared to 4.46% last year).
Golder says that a combination of factors make home buying today advantageous. “A decade ago, mortgage rates were almost double what they are today, and they’re about one-and-a-half percentage points lower than the peak of the housing boom in 2005. In addition, home prices are running about 22% less than five years ago when they were bid up by the biggest housing rush on record.”
The national median home price average is $171,700, 2.4% below what it was a year ago to date. Regionally, home prices varied ranging from $239,200 in the Northeast to $139,700 in the Midwest.