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NAR: August Existing Home Sales Drop 2.0%

The decline follows two months of increases. NAR’s chief economist says buyer demand remains strong, but higher prices have pushed many to wait for more inventory.

WASHINGTON – Existing-home sales retreated in August, breaking two straight months of increases, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Each of the four major U.S. regions experienced declines on both a month-over-month and a year-over-year perspective.

Total existing-home sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – fell 2.0% month-to-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.88 million in August. Year-over-year, sales dropped 1.5% year-to-year (5.97 million in August 2020).

“Sales slipped a bit in August as prices rose nationwide,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Although there was a decline in home purchases, potential buyers are out and about searching, but much more measured about their financial limits, and simply waiting for more inventory.”

Total housing for-sale inventory totaled 1.29 million units at the end of August, down 1.5% from July’s supply, and down 13.4% from one year ago (1.49 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 2.6-month supply at the current sales pace, unchanged from July but down from 3.0 months in August 2020.

The median existing-home price for all housing types was $356,700, up 14.9% from August 2020 ($310,400), with higher prices in all four regions. It’s the 114th straight month for year-over-year gains.

“High home prices make for an unbalanced market, but prices would normalize with more supply,” Yun says.

Properties typically remained on the market for 17 days in August, unchanged from July but down from 22 days in August 2020. Nine out of 10 homes (87%) sold in August were on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers accounted for 29% of sales in August, down from 30% in July and 33% in August 2020.

“Securing a home is still a major challenge for many prospective buyers,” says Yun. “A number of potential buyers have merely paused their search, but their desire and need for a home remain.”

Individual investors or second-home buyers, who account for many cash sales, purchased 15% of homes in August – tied with July but up from 14% year-to-year. All-cash sales accounted for 22% of transactions in August, down from 23% in July and up from 18% in August 2020.

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – represented less than 1% of sales in August, equal to the percentage seen a month prior and equal to August 2020.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 2.84% in August, down from 2.87% in July. The average commitment rate across all of 2020 was 3.11%.

Single-family and condo/co-op sales: Single-family home sales decreased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.19 million in August, down 1.9% from 5.29 million in July and down 2.8% from one year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $363,800 in August, up 15.6% from August 2020.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 690,000 units in August, down 2.8% from 710,000 in July but up 9.5% from one year ago. The median existing condo price was $302,800 in August, an annual increase of 10.8%.

“We will continue working with federal policymakers and stakeholders from across the industry in an effort to increase housing supply and ensure the American Dream of homeownership remains accessible to as many people as possible,” says NAR President Charlie Oppler.

Regional breakdown: Existing-home sales in the Northeast slid 1.4% in August, recording an annual rate of 730,000 – a 2.7% decline from August 2020. The median price in the Northeast was $407,800, up 16.8% year-to-year.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest fell 1.4% to an annual rate of 1,370,000 in August, a 2.1% decline from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $272,200, a 10.5% jump from August 2020.

Existing-home sales in the South slipped 3.0% in August, registering an annual rate of 2,550,000 and down 0.8% from the same time one year ago. The median price in the South was $303,200, a 12.8% climb year-to-year.

Existing-home sales in the West decreased 0.8%, posting an annual rate of 1,230,000 in August, down 1.6% from one year ago. The median price in the West was $507,900, up 11.4% from August 2020.

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