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Sales of existing homes top six-year high in August; prices up

September 19, 2013|By Andrew Khouri
  • A house for sale last year in Princeton, Ill.
A house for sale last year in Princeton, Ill. (Daniel Acker / Bloomberg )

Sales of previously owned homes rose in August, reaching the highest level in more than six years, according to a new report.

Sales of existing single-family houses, townhomes, condos and co-ops  climbed 1.7% on a seasonally adjusted annual rate from July, the National Assn. of Realtors said Thursday. August’s rate of 5.48 million units is 13.2% ahead of the same month a year ago.

The median sale price for resale homes rose 14.7% from last year to $212,100, the biggest year-over-year gain since the bubble days of 2005.

IN DEPTH: Five key takeaways on America's housing market 

The housing recovery has shifted into overdrive this year, fueled in large part by historically low interest rates, a lack of available homes and an improving economy.

But one wild card has been the recent rise in mortgage rates, which have climbed more than one percentage point since the beginning of May.

That increase drove more buyers to close on homes in August, said the Realtors group's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, who added that sales may be nearing a temporary peak.

“Monthly sales are likely to be uneven in the months ahead from several market frictions,” he said in a statement. “Tight inventory is limiting choices in many areas, higher mortgage interest rates mean affordability isn’t as favorable as it was, and restrictive mortgage lending standards are keeping some otherwise qualified buyers from completing a purchase.”

Nationwide, the number of listings and available inventory stayed roughly flat from July. Listings ticked up .4%, but the inventory of homes for sale ticked back to a 4.9-month supply from a five-month supply in July as homes sold at a faster pace in August.

A six-month supply is considered normal.

Regionally, sales increased in the Midwest and South. They stayed flat in the Northeast, while declining in the West. 

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