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A look behind the numbers on rising home sales

July 23, 2015

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There’s good news this summer on the home front. Sales of existing homes rose in June to their highest level in eight and a half years, according to Reuters.

The National Association of Realtors says used homes (those that aren’t new construction) sold at an annual rate of 5.49 million last month. That’s the highest level since February 2007, on the eve of the recession.

Many industries, from automobiles to appliances and home goods, keep an eye on sales of existing houses. When people are making big purchases, they’re likely to spend money on smaller ones, too.

But there was some other data that accompanied the numbers on existing home sales.

  • The NAR said home sales last month were likely boosted by buyers rushing into the market to beat rising mortgage rates. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellin has repeatedly said it’s likely there will be an interest rate increase sometime this year.
  • First-time homebuyers accounted for 30 percent of June existing home sales, down from 32 percent in May. It was the fourth straight month at or near 30 percent, Reuters said. Analysts say the first-time homebuyers’ number needs to be closer to 40 to 45 percent for the market to truly be robust.
  • The typical house was on the market for 34 days. At June’s sales pace, it would take five months to clear houses from the market, down from 5.1 months in May. A six-month supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.
  • The average price of a previously owned home reached a record $236,400, up 6.5 percent from a year ago.

Story ideas abound in existing home sales data. Talk to your local realtor association about which neighborhoods in your area are selling the fastest. Interview owners whose homes are on the market. How quickly are they getting offers? Are bidding wars breaking out over desirable homes?

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