Nationwide sales of existing homes dropped for a second straight month in September but are nevertheless expected to hit record levels for 1998, a real estate group said Monday.
The California housing market also cooled in September, and the median sales price fell 2.5% from August to $204,630, according to a monthly report issued by the California Assn. of Realtors. September's median price remained nearly 7% above the same month last year, however.
"Despite a slight cooling from the housing market of recent months, the fall home-buying season will keep us on track toward a record year, as we have expected," said Leslie Appleton-Young, the association's vice president and chief economist. "While the impact of the Asian financial crisis remains on the horizon, current market conditions appear to remain largely unaffected at this point in time."
During September, sales of existing detached homes in California fell 0.9% from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 632,000 properties. But the pace was up 9.3% compared with the same month last year.
Nationwide, existing-home sales fell 1.1% in September from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 4.68 million units, according to the National Assn. of Realtors.
The NAR is sticking with its forecast of 4.75 million units sold for 1998, 12.6% above the record 4.22 million units for 1997. The market should soften slightly to about 4.3 million units resold in 1999 but should not be severely hurt unless consumer confidence drops, said Fred Flick, NAR vice president of economic research.
Nationally, the median price for an existing home was $131,300 in September, down from $132,900 in August but up from $125,800 in September 1997.
The biggest decline in September home resales came in the South, with a drop of 4.9%. They fell 0.8% in the Midwest and were flat in the Northeast. They rose 5.8% in the West, the NAR said.
"I think most of the decline was in the South, and that was probably due to the weather," said Marilyn Schaja, money market economist at Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette.
The September existing-home sales numbers "were weaker than they would have been because of stock market volatility and the nervousness tied with that," Schaja said.