Existing home sales up 4.3% in October, fifth monthly gain

Friday, November 20, 2020, Vol. 44, No. 47

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Sales of existing homes rose for a fifth straight month in October, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday, reaching a level not seen since before the housing bubble popped 14 years ago.

Existing homes sales rose 4.3% to an seasonally-adjusted rate of 6.85 million annualized units, the industry trade group said. Reflecting the searing-hot housing market, that figure is up 26.6% from a year earlier.

The 6.85 million figure is the highest for that data since February 2006 — the eve of when the housing market reached its apex and subsequently collapsed.

Realtors and housing market experts have said, despite the historical comparison, the housing market is in a different and healthier place than it was last time it was at these levels. Interest rates are at near record lows, which subsequently has led to mortgage rates to be at historic lows. Also the pandemic has caused many families to seek out different living arrangements to reflect that many people are likely to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

But the housing market is now heading into the winter months, and with resurgent cases of coronavirus happening nationwide, it is more likely that the housing market will take a pause in the coming months instead of continue to rocket higher.

"We do expect the pace of sales to slow in the fourth quarter, with a weak recovery, resurgent pandemic and depleted inventories weighing on activity, although the risk may be for further upside surprises," said Nancy Van Housten, lead U.S. economist for Oxford Economics

The median price of an existing home was $313,000, up 15.5% from a year earlier, mostly reflecting that the nationwide inventory of existing homes remains at or near record lows. The inventory of unsold homes sits at 2.5 months' supply, down from 2.7 months' supply in September.