Existing Home Sales Apr 2009-Apr 2010Sales of existing homes rose in April, buoyed by an expiring home buyer tax credit and exceptionally low mortgage rates.

As compared to March, April’s Existing Home Sales rose by 410,000 units nationwide — the second straight month of large gains. An “existing home” is a home resold by a prior owner (i.e. not new construction).

It’s a solid report for housing overall, with rising sales suggesting that the real estate market’s recovery is ongoing. However, the data presented a mixed message.

According to the National Association of Realtors®, although the number of homes sold ticked higher in April,  so did the supply of existing homes for sale, too.

Sellers are now listing homes faster than buyers can buy them.

After adding another 0.3 months of supply in April, resale home supply is nearly two full months larger than at November 2009’s low-point. This put downward pressure on home prices.

Furthermore, because 49% of April’s buyers were first-time buyers and the tax credit has since ended, we can expect that sellers will continue to outweigh buyers in the months ahead.

It presents an interesting opportunity for June’s home buyers. Mortgage rates are still at their lowest levels of the year — despite expert predictions to the contrary — and homes remain affordable. Plus, in a lot of markets, home values have started to creep higher.

There’s good values and good rates but neither should last long. For the next few weeks, real estate may be in its 2010 sweet spot. 

If you were thinking of moving in September of this year or later, consider moving up your timeframe.

Existing Home Sales Mar 2008-Mar 2010Existing Home Sales rose in March, as expected. U.S. home buyers closed on 7 percent more homes as compared to February.

Furthermore, versus March 2009 — a month many people equate to the low point of the U.S. economy — sales volume was up 16 percent.

“Existing home sale” is the technical term for a home resale; a home previously inhabited by a person.  It’s the opposite of a “new home sale” which is a sale of a newly-constructed home.

Existing Homes Data is tracked by the National Association of Realtors® and a closer look at the March data reveals some other interesting notes:

  1. Year-over-year sales are higher for the 9th straight month
  2. Real estate investors represented 19 percent of all homes purchased
  3. First-time home buyers account for 44 percent of all buyers

Also worth noting is that the supply of available homes is down on a broader basis.  At the current rate of sales, the existing home inventory will be exhausted in 8 months.

Despite banks releasing foreclosures and REO into the San Jose market, that’s still one half-month less from February.

When supplies drops, home prices tend to rise. It suggests an underlying strength in housing that should support home prices through the next few months — especially as the home buyer tax credit finishes working its way through the system.

That said, real estate markets are local. You shouldn’t assume that what’s happening on the national level is also happening here at home.  Be sure to check with your real estate agent about local market conditions before making a decision to buy or sell.

Existing Home Sales Feb 2008-Feb 2010As expected, Existing Home Sales fell in February, slipping 30,000 units versus January’s numbers. It’s the 4th straight month in which Existing Home Sales were lower, month-over-month.

An “existing” home is one that is previously owned and lived-in (i.e. not new construction).

Existing Home Sales peaked in November 2009, just as the First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit was set to expire. Immediately thereafter, according to the National Association of Realtors®, monthly sales plunged 17 percent in December, then another 7 percent in January.

Comparatively, February’s dip is a modest 0.6 percent and is more in line with the pre-tax-credit Existing Home Sales trend.  The real estate market is rediscovering its normal. 

But “normal” may not last for long.

When the federal home buyer’s tax program was extended last year, the new rules stated that home buyers must be under contract for their new, respective homes on, or before, April 30, 2010 in order to claim up to $8,000 in federal money.  That deadline is approaching and many markets — San Jose included — are experiencing a surge in buyer traffic as April 30 nears.

The Existing Home Sales data doesn’t reflect this new demand, nor the number of new contracts written. It only accounts for home closings and, in February, closings were down.

For today’s buyers, the market looks favorable. The federal tax credit is in place, mortgage rates stubbornly stick near all-time lows, and home prices are staying in check.

Existing Home Sales should gain through March and April, pressuring home prices higher. And, by the time the press reports the gains, the best deals in the city may already be gone.  Consider acting sooner rather than later.

Existing Home Sales Jan 2009-Jan 2010The winter months have not been kind to home sales.

After plunging 17 percent in December, Existing Home Sales fell by an additional 7 percent in January, according to the National Association of Realtors®. An “existing home” is a home resold by a previous owner (i.e. not new construction).

In looking at the annualized, adjusted Existing Home Sales data, we find:

  1. Sales volume is at its lowest levels since June 2009
  2. Sales volume fell below its 12-month rolling average
  3. Home supplies are at a 5-month high

These are similar findings to the New Home Sales data issued by the government last week.  That report put new home sales at a 40-year low and showed new homes supplies higher by an entire month.

But don’t think housing rebound has halted! Home sales are cyclical and there are outside forces on today’s market.

For one, the market is still feeling the after-effects of the original First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit. Sales spiked in the months leading up to the original November 2009 expiration date. A pull-back is natural and expected.

Looking at the long-term trend, Existing Home Sales volume appears right in line.

Furthermore, weather across much of the U.S. was awful in January. That, too, can impede home sales as homes are neither shown nor negotiated when weather is majorly inclement.

Anecdotal evidence is showing sales activity higher through February and into March. And, although it’s unlikely we’ll see a spike through April like we did last November, buy-side demand for homes should remain strong. The good news of the sagging sales reports is that today’s buyers may find home prices are lower and sellers are more willing to negotiate.

Existing Home Sales Dec 2008-Dec 2009Just one month after from blowing away Wall Street, December’s Existing Home Sales hit the skids, shedding nearly 17 percent and falling to a 4-month low.

Don’t be alarmed, though. The plunge was expected. And not just because Pending Home Sales cratered last month.

When November’s Existing Home Sales surged, it was clear to observers that an expiring $8,000 federal tax credit was the catalyst. At the time, the tax program was slated to expire November 30 and the looming deadline pushed a lot of would-be buyers in Los Gatos from a December time frame into November.

The expiration date has a cannibalizing effect on December’s sales figures. It was only later that Congress extended the tax credit to June 30, 2010.

So, with home sales plunging in December, it’s no surprise that home supplies rose for the first time in 9 months.  Home Supply is calculating by dividing the number of homes for sale by the current sales pace.

The national housing supply now rests at 7.2 months.

Despite December’s Existing Home Sales report appearing shaky, it’s actually terrific new for home buyers in neighborhoods like Blossom Hill.

See, for the past few months, as housing has been improving, sellers nationwide have been bombarded by messages of “hot markets” and rising home prices by the media.  Psychologically, a seller is more likely to hold firm on price if he believes the housing market is improving and now December’s data is deflating that argument.

This is why we say there’s always two sides to a housing story — the buyers’ side and the sellers’ side. And, usually, what’s good for one party is bad for the other. It’s what we’re seeing now.

Because of soft data like December’s Existing Home Sales, buyers may retake some negotiation leverage that’s been lost since Spring 2009, helping to improve home affordability and, perhaps, spur more sales.

Existing Home Sales Nov 2008-Nov 2009Home resales are soaring.

For the 4th consecutive month, the Existing Home Sales report revealed what today’s buyers and sellers already know — there’s a lot of buyer activity in Campbell right now.

Existing Home Sales surged 7-plus percent in November, posting its largest number of recorded sales in 33 months.  Sales volume is up 44% higher versus last year.

It’s another example of the housing market in recovery.

There were other interesting statistics buried in the November data, too.  According to the National Association of Realtors:

  1. 51 percent of home buyers were first-timers
  2. Distressed properties accounted for one-third of all sales
  3. The median home sale price rose slightly

But of all the stats from the November Existing Home Sales report, perhaps the most important one is the one showing home supplies falling to 6.5 months. It’s nearly half of the home supply available last November.

The rapid run-off of inventory throughout 2009 is more than a trend at this point and suggests higher home valuations in Cambrian and elsewhere in 2010. Especially because mortgage rates are low, tax credits are available, and the press is giving housing positive coverage.

You shouldn’t feel rushed to buy, but you probably don’t wait too long, either.  The best deals of 2010 may be gone before that Spring Buying Season even starts.