Sales of existing homes eased back modestly last month, but at an annualized rate of 4.90 million homes sold, the pace remained quite strong. Sales had inched above five million homes in October, coming in at 5.12 million annualized units. The latest month's decline was 4.3%. All told, sales are 1.2% below the November, 2012 pace.
Meanwhile, prices continued to rise, with the median sales price in November showing strong year-to-year growth, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a large industry trade group. All told, the year-to-year rise in the median sales price of an existing home was a solid 9.4%.
According to the NAR, ''the market is being squeezed." To wit, '' Home sales are hurt by higher mortgage interest rates, constrained inventory, and continuing tight credit." Still, NAR went on, "There is a pent-up demand for both rental and owner-occupied housing as household formation will inevitably burst out, but the bottleneck is in limited housing supply." This bottleneck would likely explain the slight year-to-year dip in sales of such properties.
All told, 9% of November sales were foreclosures, while another 5% were short sales. These properties passed hands at discounts of 17% and 13%, respectively, putting them well below market value. Indicative of the recovery taking hold in this sector is the fact that such distressed property sales are continuing to decline as a percentage of the overall mix.
Finally, with inventories low, with the median time on the market continuing to fall, and with mortgage rates near historical lows, even after coming up irregularly in the past year, the housing market's recovery remains on track. We see further gains ahead in 2014, moreover, but they are unlikely to come in a straight line.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.