July Existing Home Sales the Largest on Record

Existing home sales surged in July.

Sales for single family homes including condos and co-ops increased 7.2% July over June and were 5% higher than June 2008. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales came in at 5.2 million. In June of 2008 the SAAR was 5 million.

Single family home sales not including condos were up 6.5% to a SAAR of 4.61 million. Condo and co-op sales were up 12.5% to a SAAR of 630,000.

Inventories rose 7.3% to 4.09 million which represents a 9.4 month supply.

Regionally, the Northeast saw sales increase 13.4%, the Midwest was up 10.9%, the South up 7.1% and the West down 1.7%.

What to make of it.

First, you can’t deny that these are strong numbers. This was the single biggest month-to-month gain since 1999. First time homebuyers and investors are providing the base for the market. The drop in sales in the West is a little puzzling and may be due more to a lack of inventory at the low end rather than a fall off in demand.

You can’t, however, discount the fact that these sales are heavily subsidized. The $8,000 tax credit for first time homebuyers and artificially low interest rates are partially responsible for driving demand. The extent to which the tax credit which is set to expire at the end of November has accelerated purchases into the current period can’t be quantified but is certainly a factor. The large increase in condo and co-op sales may have resulted from some bulk purchases of units by investors, so I think it’s premature to use this report to call a turn in that moribund sector.

In the end, this is one good data point that comes at a time of the year you would expect to get good results. Due to the distorting effects of subsidies, it probably doesn’t tell us as much about the housing market as some may propose.

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About Tom Lindmark 401 Articles

I’m not sure that credentials mean much when it comes to writing about things but people seem to want to see them, so briefly here are mine. I have an undergraduate degree in economics from an undistinguished Midwestern university and masters in international business from an equally undistinguished Southwestern University. I spent a number of years working for large banks lending to lots of different industries. For the past few years, I’ve been engaged in real estate finance – primarily for commercial projects. Like a lot of other finance guys, I’m looking for a job at this point in time.

Given all of that, I suggest that you take what I write with the appropriate grain of salt. I try and figure out what’s behind the news but suspect that I’m often delusional. Nevertheless, I keep throwing things out there and occasionally it sticks. I do read the comments that readers leave and to the extent I can reply to them. I also reply to all emails so feel free to contact me if you want to discuss something at more length. Oh, I also have a very thick skin, so if you disagree feel free to say so.

Enjoy what I write and let me know when I’m off base – I probably won’t agree with you but don’t be shy.

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