Existing home sales, as reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), increased 3.2% in September and were up 0.6% from the same month a year ago, as first-time buyers seized a 34% share of sales. Total existing home sales in September increased to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.47 million units combined for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, up from a downwardly adjusted 5.30 million units in August.
September existing sales increased in all four regions, ranging from 5.7% in the Northeast to 0.9% in the South. Sales increased by 5.0% in the West in September, despite a 5.3% decrease in the August PHSI for that region. Year-over-year, September sales increased by 2.3% in the Midwest and 1.6% in the West, while falling 0.9% in the South. The Northeast remained unchanged year-over-year for September.
Total housing inventory increased by 1.5% in September, but remains 6.8% lower than its level a year ago. At the current sales rate, the September unsold inventory represents a 4.5-month supply, compared to a 4.6-month supply in August.
The August all-cash sales share was 21%, down from 22% in August and 24% during the same month a year ago. Individual investors purchased a 14% share in September, up from 13% in August and a year ago. The September first-time home buyer share of 34% was up from 31% in August, and 29% from the same month a year ago. Distressed sales, comprised of foreclosures and short sales, fell to 4%, the lowest rate since NAR launched that series in 2008.
The September median sales price of $234,200 was 5.6% above the same month a year ago, and represents the 55th consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The median condominium/co-op price of $222,100 in September was up 6.1% from the same month a year ago.
NAR attributed the September jump to buyers attempting to move prior to the beginning of the school year. As reported yesterday, builders continue to address the low inventory of homes as September single-family starts increased by 8.1% from August. Builder sentiment remains solid, suggesting positive prospects for new single-family sales in 2016.