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Sales of U.S. existing homes drop 1.9 percent in September

WASHINGTON — Americans bought fewer existing homes in September than in August, held back by higher mortgage rates and rising prices.

The National Association of Realtors said Monday that sales of resold homes fell 1.9 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.29 million.

Mortgage rates rose sharply over the summer from their historic lows, threatening to slow a housing recovery that began last year and has helped drive modest economic growth. But many economists expect that home sales will remain healthy, especially now that rates have stabilized and remain near historically low levels. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.28 percent last week, down from a two-year high of 4.58 percent in August. That's also far below the 30-year average of 7 percent, according to Bankrate.com.

Sales of existing homes have risen a healthy 10.7 percent in the past 12 months. Still, that's the slowest year-over-year increase in five months.

And the median home price has risen 11.7 percent in the past year, the Realtors said. That's also the slowest annual gain in the past five months.

Many first-time buyers have been unable to enter the market. They made up just 28 percent of purchasers in September, down from 32 percent a year ago. In healthier housing markets, they typically make up at least 40 percent of buyers.

First-time buyers are having trouble qualifying for loans because many banks have adopted tougher lending restrictions and higher down payment requirements since the housing bubble burst.

Florida housing sales still on growth streak

Worries over flood insurance, mortgage rates and low inventories have yet to derail Florida's housing recovery, as home sales stayed on a year-over-year growth streak last month, new Florida Realtors data show. More than 18,000 single-family homes sold statewide last month, 18 percent more than in September 2012, Realtors' data show. And the median home price rose to $170,000, 17 percent higher than last year's. September marked the 22nd month in a row that single-family homes, condos and townhomes sold for more money than they had the year before. However, the supply of homes for sale remains dramatically low, although nearly 30,000 homes were newly listed on the market in September, 20 percent more than during the same period last year. The median price for a Tampa Bay single-family home in September was about $155,000, 20 percent higher than in September 2012. The median for condos and townhomes was about $96,000, 10 percent higher than last year's median price.

Drew Harwell, Times Staff Writer

Sales of U.S. existing homes drop 1.9 percent in September 10/21/13 [Last modified: Monday, October 21, 2013 10:11pm]
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