May 2010 Existing Home Sales Is Better Than The Headline Data Suggests

Jun 23, 2010

Existing Home Sales May 2009-May 2010Existing Home Sales dropped in May for the first time in 3 months but still managed to post its second-highest since November 2009, buoyed by the expiring federal tax credit program.

An “existing home” is a home that cannot be considered new construction; a resale of an existing home.  Existing Home Sales fell 2.2 percent in May.

The press is calling the drop in sales “unexpected” and disappointing, but a deeper look at the data shows the news isn’t as bad as it first appears.

First, on a regional basis, sales were mostly solid. Only the Northeast region posted a loss. The West even managed a gain.

  • Northeast : -18.3 percent
  • Midwest : 0.0 percent
  • South : +0.5 percent
  • West : +4.9 percent

Second, the supply of homes for sale dropped to 8.3 in May and, because home prices are based on supply and demand, this is a positive for pricing.

By comparison, in 2008, the average existing home inventory was 10.4 months.

And, lastly, in May, first-time home buyers represented 46 percent of all buyers. The number was likely buoyed by the tax credit program but that doesn’t damper the fact that first-time buyers provide a support floor for the housing market. 

First-time buyers in San Jose enable “existing owners” to move-up to bigger homes, which, in turn, trickles up to the mid-size and jumbo markets.

Analysts expected more from May’s numbers and that may explain why the reaction to the data is generally negative.  However, in many cities, home resales did just fine.

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