Existing-home sales in November increased 1.9% from October to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.32 million in November, down 7.0% from a year earlier, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.

November 2018 Existing Home Sales Snapshot
Hand-out November 2018 Existing Home Sales Snapshot

November existing-home sales in the Northeast increased 7.2% to an annual rate of 740,000, 2.6% below a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $291,400, which is up 6.5% from November 2017. In the Midwest, existing-home sales rose 5.5% from last month to an annual rate of 1.34 million in November, down 4.3% from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $199,100, up 2.6% from last year. Existing-home sales in the South grew 2.3% to an annual rate of 2.20 million in November, down 5.6% from last year. The median price in the South was $223,600, up 3.2% from a year ago. Existing-home sales in the West declined 6.3% to an annual rate of 1.04 million in November, 15.4% below a year ago. The median price in the West was $380,600 up 1.8% from November 2017.

Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said two consecutive months of increases is a welcomed sign for the market. “The market conditions in November were mixed, with good signs of stabilizing home sales compared to recent months, though down significantly from one year ago. Rising inventory is clearly taming home price appreciation.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in November was $257,700, up 4.2% from November 2017 ($247,200). November’s price increase marks the 81st straight month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of November decreased to 1.74 million, down from 1.85 million existing homes available for sale in October, still an increase from 1.67 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 3.9-month supply at the current sales pace, down from 4.3 last month and up from 3.5 months a year ago.

“A marked shift is occurring in the West region, with much lower sales and very soft price growth,” says Yun. “It is also the West region where consumers have expressed the weakest sentiment about home buying, largely due to lack of affordable housing inventory.”

Properties typically stayed on the market for 42 days in November, up from 36 days in October and 40 days a year ago. Forty-three% of homes sold in November were on the market for less than a month.

Realtor.com®’s Market Hotness Index, measuring time-on-the-market data and listing views per property, revealed that the hottest metro areas in November were Midland, Texas; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Columbus, Ohio; Odessa, Texas; and Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.

First-time buyers were responsible for 33% of sales in November, up from last month and a year ago (31% and 29%, respectively). NAR’s 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellersreleased in late 2018 – revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was also 33%.

“Inventory is plentiful on the upper-end, but a mismatch between supply and demand exists at affordable price points,” Yun added. “Therefore, facilitating real estate development of affordable housing units in designated Opportunity Zones can provide better housing access in addition to boosting the local economy.”

Distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – represented 2% of sales in November (the lowest since NAR began tracking in October 2008), down from 3% last month and down from 4% a year ago.

All-cash sales accounted for 21% of transactions in November, down from October and a year ago (23 and 22%, respectively). Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 13% of homes in November, down from October and a year ago (15% and 14%, respectively).

Single-family home sales rose to an annual rate of 4.71 million in November from 4.62 million in October, 6.7% below the 5.05 million sales pace from a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $260,500 in November, up 5.0% from November 2017.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000 units in November, up 1.7% from last month but down 9.0% from a year ago. The median existing condo price was $236,400 in November, which is down 1.3% from a year ago.

Mike Fratantoni, SVP and chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said in a statement: “Existing-home sales saw a slight increase in November, driven by more closings in the Northeast and Midwest. Not surprisingly, the data showed continued deceleration in home-price gains, with the national increase moderating to 4.2%, in line with what we are seeing in other home-price measures. The sharpest deceleration in both prices and sales activity last month was in the West – the region where price appreciation had been the most rapid in recent years. Given the affordability challenges in many of those markets, it makes sense that the region is seeing the most notable slowing of price gains. Inventory typically drops this time of year, and it did again in November, but it is reassuring for prospective home buyers to see an increase in available homes relative to last year, as the lack of inventory has been a major constraint to purchase activity for quite some time.”